U.S. Department Of Justice Determines Traffic Stop Of Black Student Athletes Was Not Violation Of Title VI

CATEGORY: Private Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education
DATE: Jun 22, 2023

In May 2022, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) received a complaint of race discrimination against the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO). In that complaint, Delaware State University, a historically Black university, alleged that LCSO discriminated against its hired driver, athletic coaches, and students based on race when it conducted a racially discriminatory traffic stop in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Following the traffic stop of the Black bus driver, the University alleged that subsequent searches of the personal belongings of the primarily Black passengers, including the use of a drug-sniffing dog, violated the civil rights of the passengers.

Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin for those who accept federal funding. DOJ investigated the matter, including conducting numerous interviews of those individuals involved in the stop, viewing body camera footage from multiple officers present during the stop, and reviewing publicly available documents.

LCSO also conducted an internal investigation into the traffic stop and concluded that the officers acted consistently with the applicable laws and policies of LCSO. In particular, LCSO’s investigation found no evidence that its officers relied upon race in stopping the bus or in deciding the scope and substance of related investigatory activities.

Similarly, the DOJ did not find discrimination occurred. Nonetheless, DOJ and LCSO agreed to continue to comply with Title VI and refrain from discrimination against individuals based on race, national origin, or color. Among the initiatives, the parties agreed to have the DOJ review LCSO’s policies, and revise them where appropriate; for LCSO to have a facilitated dialogue with the students, driver, and coaches involved with the traffic stop; for LCSO to strengthen ties with the community; for LCSO to continue to undergo mandatory training on non-discriminatory and anti-bias policing for all employees; and for LCSO to enhance tracking and reporting incidences or patterns of biased-based profiling.

The full agreement between the DOJ and LCSO can be found here.

Note: Title VI only applies to schools that receive federal funding. Nonetheless, schools should be aware of the potentially discriminatory impact of performing student searches.

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