School to become second in Vermont, and Nation, to raise the Flag
Burlington, VT Burlington High School (BHS) will soon become the second school in Vermont, and the nation, to fly a Black Lives Matter flag. On February 13, students from the high school’s Social Justice Union (SJU) presented a proposal to the school board, requesting they be allowed to fly the flag. The proposal included thoughts from the students on how flying the flag could create a more inclusive environment, references to Montpelier High School’s flag raising, and a petition signed by more than 450 students from the high school. A motion to allow the students to fly the flag passed unanimously.
“With the overwhelming support to fly the Black Lives Matter flag, we feel that this is an important step in creating a welcoming environment for students of color and is a crucial advancement in the district-level conversation about race,” said the student representatives from the SJU. “We expect the raising of the flag to further the Board’s conversation around closing the achievement gap. We also hope that this will generate more actions to include black history in our schools’ year-round curriculums. Raising the Black Lives Matter flag assures that students of color are supported, represented, and heard.”
While making a motion in support of the student proposal, Commissioner Liz Curry read from a prepared statement, saying “Throughout American history, the humanity of our society and nation has suffered when the personhood and citizenship rights of Black people have been attacked. When Black people have fought to have their rights and humanity recognized, our whole society has improved. The Board recognizes that creating equitable and inclusive schools involves addressing many issues that go beyond the classroom walls. Change takes time, and may be uncomfortable. But change is urgently needed if we are to fulfill our district promise that every student will graduate having achieved their highest academic, intellectual and personal potential, and be prepared to thrive in a global community.”
“We are proud to have student voice that challenges the status quo,” said BHS Principle Tracy Racicot. “Our youth are brave and certain in their beliefs. We stand beside all of our students as they choose to make a difference in the world.” Racicot met with students early on to discuss their ideas and encouraged them to take their request to the board, coaching the students on how to get time on a school board agenda, as well as how to create a strong and meaningful presentation.
“I am extremely proud of this group of students,” said Superintendent Obeng. “They began by raising the issue of flying the Black Lives Matter flag with their principal, who helped them understand that a decision of this magnitude needs to have more stakeholder input. Rather than getting frustrated or feeling disrespected, the students got to work, engaged with and got feedback from their fellow students, got themselves on the agenda for our last Diversity, Equity and Inclusion meeting, and then gave a strong presentation to the school board, resulting in the approval of this request. I commend our students for coming forward, being persistent yet respectful, and going through the proper channels to raise this issue and be heard at the board level.”
The District plans to hold a flag-raising ceremony on the afternoon of February 19th, and the flag will remain up through the rest of the school year.