Education Equity

Our schools should be places to find knowledge and belonging, without fear of censorship, discrimination, or police interference. As part of the Education Justice Coalition of Vermont, we are supporting initiatives to implement a more inclusive school curriculum, end racist and identity-based harassment and bullying, and remove armed cops from Vermont schools. 

Our students are not threats

Children need our support – they shouldn't be treated as potential threats to be monitored and investigated. Yet rather than providing our schools the resources they need to support the mental health, safety, and well-being of all students, the Scott administration wants to require "behavioral threat assessment teams" in all Vermont school districts.

In March 2023, we joined the Vermont Police Out of Schools Coalition in opposition to this proposal. Find the coalition's statement here. "Behavioral threat assessment teams" would include law enforcement officials charged with assessing, monitoring, and investigating students of any age for things like "unusual or bizarre communications or behavior" – with no due process or privacy protections or other guidelines in place.

Though the Senate Education Committee initially removed this harmful mandate in response to our concerns this spring, it was added back in when S.138 was taken up by the House, before passing through both chambers and being signed into law.

Fortunately, because of our advocacy, the mandate will not go into effect until 2025, and lawmakers added critical data guardrails to the threat assessment framework to help identify potential disparate impacts on students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities. We will continue advocating for more just and humane solutions to school safety.

Public dollars for public schools

Vermont has a longstanding commitment to providing quality public education to all, regardless of geography or status. Last year, however, the U.S. Supreme Court jeopardized those values, and put our state—and our students—in a difficult position. Given Vermont’s many small towns and rural areas, our education system has long relied on private schools to educate students living in places not served by public institutions, or “school choice towns.”

For years, the State has paid public tuition to those independent schools, while trying to maintain appropriate safeguards. In Carson v. Makin (2022), the Supreme Court ruled that where states provide funding to private schools, they can no longer exclude religious schools from receiving public dollars. Carson marks a major shift—specifically, the First Amendment’s balancing of the right to religious expression on the one hand, and the right to be free from government establishment of religion on the other.

Notwithstanding the challenges created by the Carson decision, Vermont can and must do more to support our public education system so that all students receive a quality education regardless of who they are or where they live. 

Numerous bills related to the town tuition program, including H.258, are currently under consideration by the House Education Committee. The ACLU has been providing comments to guide the committee, detailing how Vermont can both comply with the radically shifting Supreme Court precedent while upholding our commitment to a public education system that is well-funded, equitable, and serves all students.

Addressing hazing, harassment, and bullying

Every student should feel included in the classroom, but for too many young people in our state, that simply is not a guarantee. We are continuing to monitor how schools and districts are fostering more inclusive school communities, and how they respond when a student's sense of belonging and safety is shaken. 

For example, we filed a lawsuit in 2021 C.B. v. Twin Valley Middle High School to advocate for a Black youth, C.B., who faced unrelenting bullying and harassment on the basis of her race and gender. Administrators failed to protect her, as affirmed by a Department of Justice investigation and settlement in 2023

We continue to work with the Education Justice Coalition to change the conversation about bullying and harassment in schools. Check out Vermont Narratives for Change for more about our latest initiative.