The Bellows Falls Union High School board unanimously voted on a new policy that restricts the school from flying flags other than the US and Vermont state flags, according to the Brattleboro Reformer. Those flags include the Black Lives Matter flag BFUHS and other Vermont schools have flown in support of their Black students.
Superintendent Andrew Haas read a letter from the Diversity and Equity Committee of the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, reiterating the reason why the school decided to put the flag up. A junior at the school, Grace Waryas, initially proposed the idea saying the community wasn’t “immune” to racism.
“All of us would benefit greatly from anti-bias and anti-racism training, as well as a well-oiled restorative practices machine,” read the letter.
More on the decision from Brattleboro Reformer:
The policy was written after consulting with the school district’s attorney, according to School Director Priscilla Lambert of Rockingham, the chairwoman of the Policy Review Committee.
The Diversity and Equity Committee letter was read out loud by Haas, who is a member of the committee and signed the letter. BFUHS School Director David Clark of Westminster called it “a highly politicized letter.”
The letter echoes many of the same points raised three months ago by BFUHS guidance counselor Andrea Carlson, who is a member of the Diversity and Equity Committee, and signed the letter. Carlson had praised Waryas’ actions, in particular while she was surrounded by a group of “angry white men,” a reference to a group of Westminster men who had started attending the school board meetings once the Black Lives Matter issue came up.
The board took no action on the letter from the committee. However, it sparked a conversation around the administration and the handling of the previous racist incidents that were reported. The principal, John Broadley, prepared a report on bulling complaints at the schools, however, the majority of which were related to sexual harassment, the report stated.
Haas said though 34 cases of bullying were found over the past five years, there are more likely unreported incidents. Flying a flag doesn’t change the actions of racist students or staff. However, the symbolism was obviously important to students of color.
Taking the flag down may just unveil the truth about how those students are treated.