Students push for bill to promote anti-racism school curriculum – Waterbury Roundabout

Bill H. 584 has just been introduced in the Vermont Legislative Assembly. As Vermont high school students who worked closely together in the creation and development of this bill, we are hopeful that it will quickly pass through the legislature and pass into law.

As schools across the country debate teaching about race in the classroom, there couldn’t be a more vital time to ensure that all students in Vermont receive an accurate and comprehensive education about race and racism. . We hope our legislators will undertake this task with us to promote an anti-racism agenda in schools.

We are a group of students from the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network (VSARN), which is a network dedicated to promoting anti-racism in schools through curriculum change, policy, and awareness. We strive to educate ourselves and others about race, power, privilege and oppression in order to foster a more inclusive and anti-racist community starting with our schools. We strive to disrupt the racial hierarchy of our society starting with our own group.

The two of us met during the Summer 2021 Governor’s Institute Global Issues and Youth Action immersion and worked alongside State Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun, D-Westminster, to craft a bill against racism in education. After immersion, other students joined the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network.

Over the past six months, we’ve crafted a bill in hopes that it will guarantee anti-racism education for all students in Vermont. We worked closely with Rep. Bos-Lun and had the support of Rep. Kevin Christie, D-Hartford, and Rep. Elizabeth Burrows, D/P-West Windsor throughout the process. Our bill has 21 co-sponsors from every party in the House. At the start of the session, we students were eagerly awaiting the tabling of the bill.

The bill will require education standards designed to promote anti-racism in schools. Schools would become certified if they met certain anti-racism guidelines, including addressing racist incidents, diversity in literature and anti-bias training for staff. By passing this bill, we can ensure that society becomes actively anti-racist. As VSARN firmly believes, education is the key to changing society. If we create anti-racist schools, we will foster an anti-racist society. There could not have been a more pressing time to change society.

VSARN conducted a survey of approximately 300 students last year and found that 78% of current high school students in Vermont believe they did not receive an accurate and comprehensive education about race in elementary school. Without the foundation of a race-conscious education, students will not be able to enter the increasingly diverse and multicultural society in which we live. With 78% of students demanding more in their education, this bill is the perfect way to meet student needs. VSARN middle and high school students also feel the same about their experience in the upper grades: we are not getting enough education about race in all grades.

According to another survey that VSARN sent to current high school students, 94% of young people support the passage of this bill. They support a diverse, inclusive, and anti-racist curriculum that will help us change society. If this bill passes, it will not only impact hundreds of students across the state; it will impact our entire state and ensure fair and equitable opportunities for all students.

As the country navigates its way through discussions and arguments surrounding racial education, we hope Vermont can be a model for the nation for bipartisan support on the inclusive curriculum and promotion of anti-racism in the classroom. . We do not seek to indoctrinate young people and we do not seek to divide. We want to bring people together around the common cause of building a better world through our schools. We hope you will join us in this mission.

Sign,

Minelle Sarfo-Adu, South Burlington High School

Addie Lentzner, Arlington Memorial High School

Alaena Hunt and Ella Murphy, Stowe High School

Katherine Hashem, Mount Mansfield Unified High School

Jenna Hirschman and Dahabo Abukar, Essex High School

Daniel Cha, Putney School

Brendan McLoughlin, Otter Valley Union High School

Sydney Feltz, Colchester High School