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Salt Lake City police and school district officials have agreed to make sweeping changes in the way students of color are treated and disciplined on campus under the terms of a federal lawsuit settlement stemming from a 2010 roundup of West High School students police suspected of having gang affiliations.
Those terms include ending the police use of "gang sweeps" to identify and document suspected gang members and other changes to the school district's anti-gang policies, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.
Between 14 and 40 students all of African-American, Latino or Pacific Islander descent were detained, questioned and falsely accused of being in gangs, according to the ACLU's 2012 lawsuit. It said the students were denied permission to call their parents or leave the room.
The settlement includes a $100,000 payout from the Salt Lake City Police Department, Salt Lake City School District and the West Valley City Police Department to the three West High students who were the plaintiffs in the proposed class-action lawsuit, the ACLU said.
The settlement allows the parties to avoid a 2017 trial.
Salt Lake City police said in a statement that they did not admit any fault or liability.
But the department has changed its policies governing school resource officers, and the settlement "reinforces" those changes, the statement said.
The police operation inside West High School was only conducted once, but the settlement ensures similar interventions will not happen, police said.
"We are looking at having consistent, positive interaction between our [school resource officers] and the students within our school district," said interim Chief Mike Brown in the statement. "Our officers are mentoring and building face-to-face relationships with the youth, in an effort to break down barriers that have been built up in the past. We see this settlement as a win-win for us and the community, and it represents a path for moving forward."
The settlement requires such school resource officers to undergo annual "implicit bias" training.
In a statement Thursday evening, the district said it is working to "ensure that contact between police officers and students in school is appropriate and respectful."
"As part of that effort, we have collaborated with Salt Lake City Police Department, the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice and others to clearly define the appropriate roles of school administrators and police officers in our schools," the statement reads. "We will continue to work with the community and these partners to develop more culturally sensitive practices in our schools and to continue to strengthen our relationships with the children and families of Salt Lake City."
Under the settlement, school employees will be trained in the appropriate role of police, conflict resolution and cultural competency. Officers won't be able to arrest students for swearing or verbal altercations those offenses will instead be handled by school officials, according to the ACLU.
The district and police are also required to establish an oversight committee to hold twice-yearly reviews of school-based arrests, the ACLU said.
The suit accused police in Salt Lake City, West Jordan and West Valley City along with the Unified Police Department Metro Gang Unit, Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City School officials of violating the state and federal constitutional rights of students. The claims against the West Jordan Police Department have not been dismissed, according to court documents.
The court complaint alleged students were interrogated by gang-task-force members, who then logged information about the students into a gang database. It also said the district's anti-gang policies were unconstitutionally vague.
Among other terms in the settlement: Police will not be allowed to photograph students holding boards identifying alleged gang affiliations and must destroy the affiliation records made during the 2010 sweep.
Law enforcement will also be barred from using race, color, ethnicity or other traits as grounds to stop or search a student.
In 2015, a federal court judge entered a separate judgment against West Valley City in connection with the lawsuit, ordering the city to pay three of its plaintiffs a combined $50,000. The city agreed to the judgment, but it did not admit liability.