March 20, 2024 

Contact: Stephanie Gomory, [email protected], 802-223-6304 x111 

Montpelier, Vt. – The ACLU and the Twin Valley School District have settled a complaint filed with the Vermont Human Rights Commission (HRC) on behalf of C.B., a Black student who was subjected to racially motivated bullying and harassment by classmates during the 2020-2021 school year.  

The ACLU filed the complaint with the HRC against Twin Valley Middle High School in December 2021, alleging that school administrators took no meaningful action to protect C.B.—the only Black student in the school at the time—from derogatory racial slurs, references to white supremacy, and threats of physical violence. Fearing for her safety, C.B. did not participate in 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 HRC settlement announced yesterday was preceded by a separate, March 2023 settlement between Twin Valley and the U.S. Department of Justice. Following an investigation under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the DOJ concluded the District “knew of, and did not respond sufficiently to, individualized harassment and a broader hostile educational environment in Twin Valley Middle‐High School.”  

ACLU of Vermont Legal Director Lia Ernst: “These settlements taken together are a major win for our client, for Vermont students, and for everyone working for racial justice and more equitable schools. The reality is that identity-based bullying and harassment continues to affect students across this state every day, and state leaders and institutions have not responded adequately or appropriately. School administrators have a responsibility to protect students’ rights to an education free of discrimination, and we hope this case reminds schools of that responsibility.” 

While the Department of Justice settlement focuses on improving Twin Valley for current and future students—via changes to policies and practices, staff training, and monitoring by DOJ—the HRC settlement emphasizes acknowledging and redressing the harms C.B. suffered while she was a student there.  

Under its terms, Twin Valley released a public statement expressing regret for the harms C.B. experienced and the administration’s insufficient responses. The parties also exchanged letters reflecting on the harassment and its impacts. Additionally, Twin Valley paid C.B. an undisclosed sum in damages and attorney fees. 

ACLU client C.B. “Though the harms that I experienced can’t be undone, I am relieved that Twin Valley is being held accountable and working to change the way it addresses racially motivated bullying and harassment. I hope that state policymakers and school officials will learn from my experience, so that other students do not have to face the same hostile environment that I did.”  

Past reports have documented longstanding, pervasive racism in Vermont schools, and advocates continue to call on policymakers to enact stronger guidelines and protections for students. In October, a coalition of Vermont organizations launched Vermont Narratives for Change to collect stories from students who have been subject to hazing, bullying, or harassment in Vermont schools. The campaign seeks to inform policy changes that protect the right to a fair, equitable education. 

C.B. is represented by the ACLU of Vermont and pro bono co-counsel at Hausfeld LLP.  

Find more information about Vermont Narratives for Change here