C.B., a former Vermont student who was subjected to racially motivated bullying and harassment by classmates at Twin Valley Middle High School during the 2020-2021 school year, filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Rights Commission (HRC) after school administrators took no meaningful action to address the ongoing racist bullying she faced as the only Black student in the school.

Instances of bullying included the use of derogatory racial slurs, references to white supremacy, and threats of physical violence. Among the many racist incidents reported to school officials, in one instance a group of male students repeatedly accosted C.B. in the hallway, raising the Nazi salute and yelling the “N-word” at her. In another incident, a male student lunged at C.B. threateningly. After school administrators failed to respond, the racist harassment and bullying of C.B. escalated. In the spring of 2021, a Snapchat video captured a group of male students at the school yelling the “N-word” and “Burn, Burn, Burn!” and that they “hope [C.B.] burns in hell.” Still, Twin Valley officials took no meaningful action to protect C.B.

Fearing for her safety, C.B. dropped out of school sports, her grades declined, and she developed anxiety and depression. Ultimately, C.B. was forced to transfer schools, just weeks before the school year ended.

The complaint alleges, among other things, that by failing to address severe and known racial harassment, Twin Valley unlawfully deprived C.B. of her right to a school environment free of discrimination.

NAACP Windham County Branch President Steffen Gillom: “The racism this student experienced is unfortunately a daily reality for students across the state, and one that is still not being talked about or addressed the way it needs to be. Educators and administrators need to support students of color, and that starts with paying attention, listening, and responding appropriately when they are harmed. That didn’t happen in this case.”

Other publicized examples of racist incidents in Vermont classrooms racist incidents in Vermont classrooms and at sporting events have drawn attention in recent months, though advocates say the vast majority are never made public. Over the past two decades, multiple reports have found racism is pervasive in Vermont schools and needs to be addressed.

Vermont has a Harassment, Hazing, and Bullying Prevention Advisory Council, and Vermont state law requires schools to have harassment, hazing, and bullying prevention policies in place, but the law has no enforcement mechanism and provides no recourse when schools fail to implement those policies or respond appropriately to racist incidents.

Date filed

December 21, 2021

Status

Settled