This article by Patricia LeBoeuf originally appeared Sept. 13 in the Bennington Banner.
Racism exists in Vermont — and school districts must do their part to address it. That’s how Martha Allen, past president of the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, described the importance of a “deep dive” multiple-year training program in racial equity, which the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union is undertaking.
The SVSU had its first training as part of the program on Aug. 29, for teachers and administrators from Mount Anthony Union Middle School.
The two-hour training functioned as an overview of the program, why it was being offered and what could be expected going forward, said Allen, who now works as the Vermont-NEA’s racial equity liaison.
“Nobody’s ever done this before,” Allen said of the training. “There isn’t a set program necessarily. There are lots of different workshops and themes and topics that we’ll use, but we’re going to tailor it to the needs of the [SVSU].”
The specifics haven’t been decided yet, but teachers will learn how to critically evaluate their classroom reading material, including what perspectives it represents — or doesn’t.
The NEA asked the Vermont chapter to be one of six state affiliates participating in this training, which stems from a national initiative that began in 2015 to eradicate racism in public schools nationwide, according to a press release from the SVSU.
Over the next several years, the plan is for all staff in all the SVSU’s schools to receive racial equity training, Allen said.
“It’s not a one-shot thing,” she said.
Organizers also hope to work in the community, but that’s part of preliminary planning.
“We’re working on that as we go,” Allen said.
The NEA will lead most of the trainings, at least initially, with the hope to train interested staff members in the district to train others, Allen said.
The SVSU was suggested for the program by State Rep. Kiah Morris, D-Bennington, in her capacity as a member of the Vermont-NEA’s Racial Justice Task Force.
“She suggested that we look at Bennington,” Allen said. There were concerns with the middle school in particular — specifically, about racist remarks that had been made, not necessarily intentionally.
Read full story at the Bennington Banner.
(Fair use with written permission from the New England Newspapers Inc.)