Opinion

Stop racism in schools

Dear Editor,

We are the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network, a statewide group of students working to promote anti-racism in our schools and communities. We believe that by starting by fostering anti-racism with the youngest members of society — students — we can build a better society as a whole. 

We are writing about S.103, an act relating to amending the prohibitions against discrimination. This bill would lower the standards necessary to pursue a harassment claim, which would be beneficial to all Vermonters. According to the Human Rights Commission, only 1 out of 200 harassment cases actually make it to be heard. This bill would work to address this inequity, while also extending the harassment protections to students.

The section of this bill that is especially applicable to us as students, is the part that would implement these harassment standards in our schools. Students across the state and in our schools face racism, ableism, sexism, and other inequalities daily throughout their educational journey. We are already fighting for their right to safe education; We shouldn’t have to fight to have our harassment complaints heard. We believe that the provision which would include students under the harassment protections is an extremely vital part of this bill, and needs to be included in order for it to pass.

Imagine this: A teacher and a student both experience harassment from their principal. Under the current harassment standards, only the teacher would be able to file a claim on this. The student would not be able to. 

We believe this is an injustice.

An argument voiced by legislators and others is that education officials and schools do not have the capacity to deal with the harassment complaints being heard. We understand the many demands that are put on educators and staff members by their schools, but allowing students to pursue harassment claims is vital to our mental and physical health. If schools are for students, then they are worth our safety.

VSARN is passionate about building inclusive and just school systems that are centered on student well-being and safety. We believe that the S.103 bill would accomplish this goal. There is no harm to ensuring that we, as students, feel protected in our schools where we spend roughly 35 hours per week. Our question to you is, why wouldn’t we want to prioritize the safety of the next generation across our state?

We hope legislators and advocates will hear our request for S.103 to be passed WITH the student section. 

If you are a community member who wants to learn more, you can visit  legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2024/S.103 and write to the House Education Committee with your thoughts.

We appreciate all the work of Vermonters on this issue and hope that we can see positive change come out of it.

VSARN students, including Krrish Mishra, Addie Lentzner, Hudson Ranney, Kaitlynn Cherry, Lucas Brumm, Annika Gruber, Sequoyah Walther Gingold

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