Friday, June 19, 2020

CVSD Schools Raise the Black Lives Matter Flag

Champlain Valley School District’s Board of Directors Statement 

Read at Black Lives Matter Flag Raising, June 19, 2020

Thank you for being here today – on Juneteenth, a day of reverence and celebration marking the abolishment of slavery. On this day in 1865 enslaved Black Americans in Texas were finally freed, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Slavery ended 135 years ago, yet racism is still prevalent in our country and it exists in our schools. We have failed to abolish racism in our district and therefore we have failed you. Some may feel that the goal of abolishing racism is unrealistic. And while we recognize the many influential factors outside of a school district’s control – things like cultural messages, political actions, and family dynamics – we believe that the goal of abolishment is the only starting point. Anything less would be unacceptable.

I wish that I could stand before you today and say that we’ve got a solid, foolproof plan for eliminating racism in our district. But we’re not there yet. I can, however, promise that the board will start by listening to all of you – students, parents, community members, teachers, and administrators. Together we will identify the true scope and nature of racism in our schools.

As a school board, our direct influence lies mainly in the policy realm. We will review all of our existing policies through the lens of equity and anti-racism, and pledge to be anti-racist in all policies going forward.

We recently hired CVSD’s first Director of Diversity and Equity in part to understand the many ways that racism impacts our students and faculty. Under her leadership, we’ll root out implicit and explicit bias. We’ll examine the district’s curriculum looking for ways to be more inclusive and to present a more complete picture when it comes to topics like American history, American culture, and the many ways in which our students can change this world.

The administration has already begun revising the district’s hiring practices and that work continues as we strive to build a team of educators that better represents our student body and our country’s rich diversity.

We voted unanimously to raise the Black Lives Matter flag at all schools in CVSD because we believe this symbol of support is also a visual reminder of a most basic and sadly overlooked human notion:

Black lives matter.

Black students matter.

Black families matter.

We hope that raising this flag can also be a reminder to everyone in our community that your school district has committed to change. Hold us accountable. If we’re not moving fast enough, let us know. If we aren’t going far enough, tell us. It’s on us to do the work, and we encourage your feedback.

Education is a powerful tool for change. It’s time for us to leverage that power and all of the resources that go with it, to build on the work that started in Vermont in 1777 when our state’s Constitution became the first in the nation to abolish slavery.

Seventeen-seventy-seven. That’s 243 years ago, and here we are.

We can – we must – do better.

The CVSD Board of Directors

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