Racial Harassment in Vermont Public Schools


Appendix 1: Vermont Law - 16 Vermont Statutes Annotated 565: Anti-Harassment in Education Act (Adoption of Policy Prohibiting Unlawful Harassment of Students)

(a) Each school board shall develop, adopt and make available in the manner described under subdivision 563(1) of this title a harassment policy which includes: 

  1. A statement prohibiting unlawful harassment of a student.

  2. The definition of harassment pursuant to subdivision 11(a)(26) of this title.

  3. Consequences and appropriate remedial action for staff or students who commit  harassment.

(b) Each school district shall establish rules setting forth procedures for dealing with harassment of students. The rules shall include:

  1. Procedures for reporting harassment of students, including annual designation of two or more people within the institution to receive complaints and a procedure for publicizing those people’s availability.

  2. A procedure for publicizing the availability of the Vermont human rights commission and the federal Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and other appropriate state and federal agencies to receive complaints of harassment.

  3. A statement that acts of retaliation for reporting of harassment or for cooperating in an investigation of harassment is unlawful pursuant to subdivision 4503(a)(5) of Title 9.

(c) The school board shall provide notice of the policy and procedures developed under this section to students, custodial parents or guardians of students, and staff members. Notice to students shall be in age-appropriate language and should include examples of harassment. At a minimum, this notice shall appear in any publication of the school district that sets forth the comprehensive rules, procedures and standards of conduct for the school. The board shall use its discretion in developing and initiating age-appropriate programs to effectively inform students and staff about the substance of the policy and procedures in order to help prevent harassment. The harassment policies and procedures shall be implemented by August 1, 1995.

(d) For purposes of this section, staff means teachers, support staff, administrators, agents of the school, board members and unpaid volunteers.

HISTORY: Added 1993, No. 162 (Adj. Sess.), @ 4.



            Harassment policies for independent schools, see @ 166 of this title.
            Harassment policy for state colleges, see @ 2182 of this title.
            Harassment policy for University of Vermont, see @ 2284 of this title.

Appendix 2: Vermont Department of Education Model Harassment Policy

Not available on Web site

Appendix 3: U.S. Department of Education: Profile, Assessment, and Resolution Agreement

Not available on Web site

Appendix 4: History of Racial Harassment Law in Vermont: Submission by Speaker Michael Obuchowski, Vermont House of Representatives

Not available on Web site

Appendix 5: Responses by Vermont NEA, Human and Civil Rights Standing Committee

The following materials were submitted to the Advisory Committee as attachments to the submission by Vermont NEA.[1]

  1. Vermont NEA Membership Enrollment Form

  2. Ethnic Breakdown of Vermont Teachers

  3. Anti-Bias Resource Guide for Vermont Educators, Vermont Anti-Racism Action Team (1998)

  4. NEA resolutions regarding multicultural education, diversity, racism, civil rights, diverse instructional materials, institutional discrimination, and hate-motivated violence.

  5. Vermont NEA resolutions regarding the promotion and protection of human and civil rights

  6. NEA invitation to October/November 1998 minority leadership training courses.

  7. Portions of the Vermont NEA Leadership Handbook (1997–1998) regarding elections, committees, and review boards

  8. Annual report from Marlene Burke, Chair of the Vermont NEA Human and Civil Rights Committee  (February 1998)

  9. Vermont NEA Representative Assembly Committee Reports (April 1998)

  10. “Vermont NEA honors Students and Members,” Vermont NEA newsletter article (May 1998)

  11. “Leadership Update,” Vermont NEA newsletter (April 1998)

  12. Agenda to the April 1998 Vermont NEA Awards Luncheon

  13. Letters of Nomination for the Vermont NEA Human and Civil Rights Award of 1998 (February 1998)

  14. “Dream Goes On—Two Rutland Students Are Honored During Martin Luther King Ceremony,” Rutland Herald, Kevin O’Conner.

  15. Vermont NEA - Human and Civil Rights Committee letters to teachers and students bestowing annual award (1998)

  16. “1997 Rep Assembly sets dues, refers schools that work, awards honors,” Vermont NEA Today (May 1997)

  17. Agenda to the April 1997 Vermont NEA Awards Luncheon

  18. Letters of Nomination for the Vermont NEA Human and Civil Rights Award of 1998 and supporting documents (February 1997)

  19. Agenda to the April 1996 Vermont NEA Awards Luncheon

  20. Vermont NEA - Human and Civil Rights Committee letters to teachers and students bestowing annual award (1996)

  21. Vermont NEA newsletter (May 1995)

  22. “Leadership Update,” Vermont NEA newsletter (November 1996)

  23. Vermont NEA newsletter (May 1996)

  24. Request for information from Kimberly B. Cheney, Chairperson, Vermont Advisory Committee to  Angelo Dorta, President Vermont NEA (February 1998)

  25. Response to Kimberly B. Cheney letter of Dec. 12, 1997, letter by Angelo Dorta, President

  26. Vermont NEA newsletter (January 1998)

  27. Letter from Kimberly B. Cheney, Chairperson, Vermont Advisory Committee to Angelo Dorta, President Vermont NEA (December 1997)

Appendix 6: Welcome Statement by Peter Clavelle, Mayor of Burlington*

I want to thank the [Advisory Committee] for coming to the Greater Burlington area this evening and convening this forum to address harassment in Vermont’s public schools. As mayor, I hear from many constituents about all too frequent incidents of racism in Burlington schools and in our community. I have three kids in the Burlington school system and we’re all stakeholders, and I feel like maybe I have a slightly higher stake considering that I have an adopted daughter born in Korea. And I share this dream that Burlington and our State and our country will become a place that’s free of racism and violence. And I do believe that we’ve made some progress, but I also know that we’ve got a long, long way to go.

Martin Luther King defined violence as whatever denies human integrity and leads to hopelessness and helplessness. And I think that if you embrace that broad definition of violence, that we come to recognize schools as a place of violence for [some] students on a daily basis, even for teachers and staff. Schools are a place of violence, a place where individuals are ignored, belittled, called name[s], harassed, discriminated against, and threatened. As we work towards building an environment which is not an environment of violence but an environment of respect, it’s important that we understand that schools are a very important place to do this work and education is a basic tool to ending racism.

It’s [also] very important (and what’s powerful about this forum) is that communication and unleashing a dialogue about racism in our community is long overdue, and we need to share our views and to talk about racism and the need to ensure ethnic diversity in not only our schools but all of our institutions. And I know that at times this is a difficult dialogue; it’s uncomfortable for some of us; for many it has provoked a response of denial. But it’s time for us as a community and as a State to put these issues of racism on the table and to deal with them in a very forthright and honest manner as painful as that might be.

While this evening’s focus is on schools, it’s also important to remind ourselves that we can’t end racism in schools without ending racism in all of our institutions, whether it’s city hall or businesses or universities, our neighborhoods. We’ve got much work ahead of us, and certainly zero tolerance for racism in schools and the workplace is a place to start, but certainly is not a place to finish. We’ve got a long journey, and this community forum will bring these issues front and center and place them on the table as a milestone on the journey that we’re embarking on as a community.

There is a distinct separation between city government and the schools. [The schools] are a department of the city but largely autonomous. I do think it’s important that the mayor, as the only official in the city that’s elected by all of the citizens of the city, utilize that office and the bully pulpit of mayor to provide issues of leadership on public education and certainly on the very important issue of racism. But I share that responsibility with 28 other elected officials in the city of Burlington, 14 school board members, and 14 city council members. So I’ve attempted at times, not as boldly as I might, to provide leadership, but more needs to be done and that there is a responsibility on my part to provide leadership on this issue. I also want to acknowledge the fact that the chair of the school board, Carol Ode, as well as one other member of the school board, Leslie Kaigle, are here this evening to hear firsthand some of the testimony that will take place this evening. So I want to welcome you here and thank you for convening this forum. I think it’s a very important dialogue, one which we need to continue on a more regular basis. Welcome.

Appendix 7: Examples of Damaging Curriculum and Prospective Alternatives**

Damaging Curriculum




Example 1: Seventh graders studying the United States Constitution concentrate on the Founding Fathers, each writing reports on one person and then dressing up as that person to deliver their reports. Teachers appear not to notice the hidden messages. All of the Fathers are white men, all girl students and boys of color are being made to concentrate on and dress as a white man. All of the Fathers are relatively or quite affluent. When the Three-Fifths Compromise is discussed, no one speaks of a black person’s point of view.

After one semester’s discussion about inclusive curriculum—and my experience is that it doesn’t take a day’s in-service, it takes at least a semester about 30 to 45 contact hours of teaching—some seventh grade teachers decide to keep the focus on the Constitution but to teach it differently. Half of the class does pretend that they’re going off to shape the new government. The other, however, after a full class discussion of varieties of roles and lives stays home. Male farmers, apothecaries, women who are now running shops, indentured servants, Africans-in-bondage. Everybody now discusses the central issues. Teachers and students need to talk about the relative power, the validity and audibility of the voices of all those parties to the discussion. 



Example 2: Teachers in one school find that several black students in the school tend to be dispersed, one or two to a classroom. Teachers try to change that. Still, painful incidents will occur. A white child explains that she was touching her classmate’s hair because she wanted to feel what a black person’s hair was like.


Two teachers, one black, the other white, one a classroom teacher, the other the guidance counselor, start a group to bring children of color together, to talk about themselves, share experience and gather strength.



Example 3: The main seventh grade history book in a middle school does include women and men of color, white women and disabled folks, but they tend to be mentioned in sidebars or in optional end of chapter activities. Teachers at the school have not noticed the hidden messages. White men are the norm, others are optional or exceptional exceptions.


The group of teachers who made the discovery about the textbook do learn the tools needed to diagnose these diseased messages and they take two intermediate steps: 1. They teach units of American history as more inclusive using the text as just one supplementary source and 2. they teach their students to see the bias in textbooks so the students can recognize the next time they are presented with biased materials.



Example 4: An elementary school celebrates black history month with [an] array of posters of [people] of color. The principal spotlights one person each morning when she addresses the school over the PA. During the Vermont Equity Project the principal suddenly recognizes the hidden messages her staff has been sending: Peoples of color are marginal, extra. We’ll celebrate their lives merely as a display to pass by or we might say as extracurricular activity.


[The Principal] begins to wrestle with the need to bring peoples of color into course units throughout the school at every level. It’s not easy to involve all of her teachers, to teach them the importance of changing. But she has involved about four-fifths of her staff so far in the Equity Project. No district mandate helps her out. Teachers choose professional development courses from an array of competing agendas. Unlike Minnesota, for instance, there is no strong, funded State mandate for making diversity a top priority for professional development.



Example 5: Two sixth grade teachers teaching Central American and Canadian history, a recommended unit, center their units on milestones in each nation’s political and economic development. The people highlighted tend to be either affluent public figures or faceless native groups like say the Aztecs. Again, the racist, sexist and classist messages go unspoken. Where are the women, both native and European; where is family or community life, both native and European; what is happening to native peoples?


Teachers begin to recognize these and other damaging hidden messages and they take two measures. They teach their students ways to ask questions I just posed so that the children know how to see their own course units and how to talk about what is included and excluded and reasons why. The teachers find books about Canadian women of color, biographies of Mexicans, books about ordinary human beings and about crafts, communities and the role native peoples played in assimilating, resisting, helping Europeans stay alive, acting in all the ways in which they participated in human story.

Appendix 8: Letter to the Advisory Committee, Nov. 12, 1998, VT Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, Division of Social Services

Not available on Web site

Appendix 9: “Reading, Writing, Racism,” Vermont Times, Sept. 10, 1997

Not available on Web site

Appendix 10: Donald A. Grinde Jr., Director, ALANA/Ethnic Studies, University of Vermont, Summary Recommendations

Not available on Web site

[1] Copies of the material can be requested by contacting the Commission’s Eastern Regional Office.

* Presentation delivered by Mayor Clavelle at the Nov. 4, 1997, forum in Burlington.

** Presented by Merryn Rutledge, Vermont Equity Project. See Burlington Transcript, pp. 212–25.