Justice Department settles with Kentucky school district over racial harassment

Published 11:39 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The U.S. Justice Department has announced a settlement agreement with Madison County Schools to resolve allegations of serious and widespread racial harassment of Black and multi-racial students.

The department’s investigation uncovered numerous incidents of race-based harassment in which Black and multi-racial students were called the N-word and other derogatory racial comments by their peers.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Lexington says the school district did not consistently or reasonably address the harassment, which included racial taunts and intimidation, and was at times reinforced by use of Confederate flags and imagery.  When the district did respond, it often failed to follow its own racial harassment policies and its actions were ineffective in addressing the broader hostile environment.

Email newsletter signup

The result deprived Black and multi-racial students of equal access to the district’s educational opportunities and led them to conclude the district either condoned the behavior or would not take action to help them.

Under the agreement, Madison County Schools will retain a consultant to review and revise anti-discrimination policies and procedures, as the part of significant institutional reforms. The schools will also:

• Create a new central office position to process complaints of race discrimination.

• Update racial harassment and discipline policies to more accurately track and consistently respond to complaints of race-based harassment.

• Train staff on how to identify, investigate, and respond to complaints of racial harassment and discriminatory discipline practices.

• Inform students and parents on how to report harassment and discrimination.

• Update its electronic reporting system to track and manage complaints and the district’s response to complaints.

• Implement focus groups, surveys, training and educational events on identifying and preventing race discrimination, including harassment.

• Analyze and review discipline data and amend policies to ensure non-discriminatory enforcement of discipline policies.

“Schools should be safe and supportive environments for all students, not places where they face racist harassment and abuse,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.  “Racial harassment inflicts grievous harm on young people and violates the Constitution’s most basic promise of equal protection.  This agreement will create the institutional changes needed to keep Black and multi-racial students safe and to provide them with a supportive educational environment.  We look forward to Madison County Schools demonstrating to its students and school community that it will no longer tolerate racial discrimination.”