In 2012, the ACLU of Utah and the ACLU Racial Justice Project brought a federal lawsuit on behalf of three West High School students against school and police defendants over a “gang operation” conducted at school during school hours. During the December 2010 “gang operation,” over a dozen police officers from a joint agency gang task force entered West during school hours, detained dozens of students, interrogated them about alleged gang membership or affiliation, and recorded that information in a police database. Police photographed many of those students holding “mug-shot” style signs identifying the students’ alleged gang membership or affiliation and purported gang monikers. The database documentation and photographs opened these young people to ongoing police scrutiny and other negative consequences, even though they did not commit a crime. All of the students policed detained, interrogated and documented were of Latino, African-American or Pacific Island descent.
On March 17, 2016, The Salt Lake City Police Department and the Salt Lake City School District reached a settlement agreement by committing to make broad and meaningful changes in how they treat students of color and engage in school disciplinary issues.
On March 26, 2019, three years after the settlement of this case, leaders of the Salt Lake City School District, Salt Lake City Police Department, and Mayor Jackie Biskupski signed an agreement clarifying the role of school resource officers (SROs) at city schools. The agreement requires the equal placement of SROs across all city schools, sets limits on police access to students and their records, and creates an oversight committee and annual reporting requirement.
- PRESS RELEASE: ACLU, Salt Lake Police and Salt Lake School District Settle Suit over “Gang Operation” at West High School (3/17/16)
- PRESS RELEASE: Case Against West Valley Over “Gang Sweep” at West High School Ends; Plaintiffs and ACLU Call for Changes to City Police Policy and Practice (12/7/15)
- PRESS RELEASE: ACLU Files Lawsuit Over Unlawful Sweep at Utah School Targeting Students of Color (12/13/12)
In the News
- Wearing a Hoodie While Brown Does Not Mean You Are in a Gang (ACLU Blog of Rights 12/13/12)
- School to Prison Pipeline (9/25/13)
- In Perverse Equation, Sketches + Skin Color = Gang Tagger (5/19/14)
- Police Accountability Doesn't Stop at the Schoolhouse Door (3/17/16)