Letter of Transmittal

Vermont Advisory Committee to
the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Members of the Commission
Mary Frances Berry, Chairperson
Cruz Reynoso, Vice Chairperson
Carl A. Anderson
Yvonne Y. Lee
Russell G. Redenbaugh

Ruby G. Moy, Staff Director

The Vermont Advisory Committee submits this report of its community forum on racial harassment in Vermont public schools held on November 4 and 5, 1997, in Burlington and Rutland. In 1996 the Advisory Committee learned that racial slurs and physical assaults were repeatedly directed at minority students in both elementary and secondary schools. The Committee also received allegations that some schools permitted a racially hostile environment to exist and, in some instances, encouraged school activities or employed curriculum materials that were derogatory to minority students. At its 2-day forum, the Committee sought to collect information regarding these and other incidents from State and Federal officials, school officials and teachers, community leaders, parents, and students.

Thirty-six panelists offered their views of racial harassment in the public schools. Many described the public schools as unfriendly and hostile, a setting wherein racial slurs, epithets, and physical assaults occur. This environment leads minority students to experience fear in every day school activities and contributes to their general ostracism from the total school community. The Committee is deeply concerned for the safety and welfare of all students, particularly minorities, who at times must confront these acts without assistance from school officials and State agencies.

The number of panelists at the forum represents a small fraction of persons invited by the Advisory Committee to participate in the discussion. Despite the Advisory Committee’s substantial outreach efforts to State legislators, educational union representatives, and school administrators, the Advisory Committee noted the absence of many key figures in the educational community who could have contributed information to the Committee but chose not to. Their absence and apparent lack of interest in the problem, the Committee believes, reflect a general indifference to the problem of racial harassment.

Based on information gathered at the forum and followup research, the Committee concludes:

This report brings to the forefront an important, yet often neglected issue, and offers useful recommendations to State officials, school administrators, and civic organizations. We believe this report contributes to the Commission’s efforts to monitor equal educational opportunity at the national level. The Committee has adopted its report in a recorded poll of all members by a vote of 13 to 0, no abstentions.


Kimberly B. Cheney, Chairperson
Vermont Advisory Committee