Support Diversity Training of Teachers & Staff at Wash. Central Unified Union School Dist.

Support Diversity Training of Teachers & Staff at Wash. Central Unified Union School Dist.

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Jack Taylor started this petition to WCUUSD School Board and

Diversity Training in Vermont Public Schools for Faculty and Staff

We need mandatory diversity training in Vermont public schools for faculty and staff. I am petitioning for a pilot program to be established in our own school district, Washington Central Unified Union School District. 


Vermont is one of the whitest states in the country and this lack of exposure to and experience with diverse populations creates a harmful environment in public schools for students of color, LGBTQ students, and other marginalized populations.

The problems I have encountered as a parent, employee, and community member, regarding diversity and sensitivity, stem from the collective thought that since the school's student body typically consists of very few students of color or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) individuals, it is not necessary to allocate resources to such issues.

What Other Groups Should be a Focus of  Diversity Training

However, Vermont does not exist in a vacuum. It is precisely this kind of narrow-minded perspective that has led to confrontations between students, complaints from community members, and the need for outside investigations into bigoted behavior. The insensitivity regarding socioeconomic status and physical/mental ability is also a problem that requires attention. It is not tolerable to have faculty and staff explain away unacceptably inappropriate comments made about the quality of another student’s clothing, housing, or hygiene. Nor is it appropriate to hear jokes made about physical or mental disabilities and allow them to pass without reprimand. I do not believe either the Vermont Agency of Education or the Governors' office would approve of such practices, and I think mandated diversity training in Vermont public schools could help to mitigate these issues.

Who Might Oppose This Proposal

I know there are white, heteronormative, and cisgender staff, faculty, and community members who object to having to subject themselves or their children to learning about these weighty issues. I am also aware that some of these people find the Black Lives Matter movement without basis and find LGBTQ individuals undeserving of equal treatment. Nevertheless, I believe there is common ground to be found in the recognition that we care about the vitality of our communities and towns, and most, if not all of us, oppose injustice. In addition to the emotional cost of the damage inflicted on children, staff, and faculty who might be victims of this type of treatment, targeting members of a protected category unjustly is also illegal and exposes our tax dollars to credible lawsuits. 

Why Did I Start This Petition?

I decided to start this petition because my previous efforts to request diversity training for staff and faculty failed. I received a courtesy call from Bryan Olkowski, the former superintendent of the district, regarding an investigation launched into aggressively racist behavior toward me. I requested district-wide diversity training, but Mr. Olkowski made it clear he was opposed to any such a program, dismissing my suggestion out of hand. I was not the only one that found Mr. Olkowski out of step with our community's sense of compassion and desire for justice, as evidenced by the vote of "no confidence"( and subsequent dismissal) by the grand majority of  faculty and staff of the district.

Microaggressions—Why Such a Big Deal?

Part of the function of diversity training in this context is getting white, heteronormative, cisgender people to understand that protected status based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, and gender identity is not about giving preferential treatment to the individuals enduring discrimination but rather about stopping the ill-treatment of members of these groups. These actions can be intentional—outright racism, homophobia, transphobia—but they can also be in the form of microaggressions, caused by ignorance or insensitivity. Getting white, heteronormative, cisgender people to recognize how they may unintentionally disparage and emotionally scar a person because of their membership in a marginalized group, places diversity/sensitivity training in a more productive context if managed properly, will help all students to participate in their education freely and safely.

What Outside Groups Should be Involved in a Diversity Training Program

We strongly recommend that groups such as BLM Vermont, Outright Vermont, Champlain NAACP, and Justice for All Vermont, be involved in the crafting of a diversity training program. Also, faculty and staff who are part of a marginalized group should also be consulted in order to make their participation (or decision not to participate) up to them individually, but for all others, the program would be mandatory. 

What is the Future of Such a Program?

Hopefully data about the success of such a mandatory training for all faculty and staff at WCUUSD would help us present a viable case to the appropriate state agencies to set up a state-wide program, particularly given the lack of diversity regarding race and LGBTQ individuals and insensitivity around disabilities and socioeconomic status in the entire state of Vermont. 


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