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The most woke school district in America is grooming children live on the internet
This is what the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill and Stop WOKE Act in Florida were designed to prevent.
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On February 8, 2022, the Burlington Vermont School District hosted a webinar called Let’s Talk About Gender Identity and Expression.
Live on the internet, in front of the whole community, a 7th grader discussed their experience coming out in the 5th grade with the help of the school guidance counselor:
“I’m in middle school and I have a younger sibling in 4th grade…and I’m not 100% sure what their pronouns are right now…but I went to the same elementary school and I felt pretty supported and I actually came out in 5th grade with the help of my guidance counselor.”
In the same webinar, teacher Billy Ray Poli introduces The Gender Unicorn as a tool they’ve used to teach about gender identity and expression in the school district. The Gender Unicorn is one of many resources listed on the School District’s Diversity and Equity Resources page, along with things like the Teaching While White podcast, Nice White Parents podcast, and all sorts of tools for examining white supremacy, privilege, and unconscious bias.
Trans non-binary Assistant Principal Nicole Ellis discusses using The Gender Unicorn as a teacher:
“I’ve used it both in a lesson as a teacher but also with our staff at EMS (Edmunds Middle School). Earlier this year we did a training where The Gender Unicorn was a major piece that we talked about to support staff members to learn and understand our students’ identities when it comes to gender.”
In the same section of the webinar, the administrators had each of the students on the call introduce themselves, along with their pronouns, to the people watching:
In this next clip, the administrators made sure the students were on display, centering their voices above all others. One of the school counselors, Mrs. Brady, says the following:
“Whenever someone misgenders someone near me, I never correct them until I ask that person if it’s ok. Is that how I should handle it, or should I immediately correct them?”
Assistant Principal Ellis calls on the students to weigh in with their perspectives.
There’s an extended silence. No student speaks.
Ellis makes it clear that this is not ending until one of the students speaks.
“I have really good wait time, because I work in education.”
Poli chimes in that the wait is too long for him and pressures the children to speak.
“I’m slowly dying over here! C’mon kiddos!”
A student finally speaks up, offering an answer that seems to speak to both sides of the issue, saying they’d prefer a student handle it themselves but that it’s also good for the administrator to handle it immediately. The other students on the call immediately agree with the student who spoke up, obviously anxious to move on from this particular question.
But Ellis isn’t ready to move on, and shares their own perspective to guide the students to a more acceptable answer:
“I’d say for me personally when someone misgenders me I don’t always feel comfortable correcting them in the moment but I personally do feel supported when my cis-gendered peers and colleagues are able to make that correction.”
This isn’t the only webinar in which the Burlington School District has put its middle school students on the spot.
In another webinar in their Equity Community Workshop Series, the district hosted Let’s Talk About Whiteness on March 8, 2022. This time, middle school students are pressured by their teachers to talk about times when they were complicit in white supremacy by remaining silent when they should have spoken up. Flanked by a slide declaring “white silence is violence” the school district’s Equity Instructional Leader, Autumn Bangoura, told a story about when she stayed silent about racism when she felt she should have spoken up.
When she concluded, she asked the roughly 12-year-old students on the webinar to share a story about a time when they should have spoken up.
“I’m just sharing this vulnerable story of how I have stayed silent when it comes to race and racism…and I’m going to put that towards the students. Have you stayed silent when it comes to race or racism, or do you generally speak up? You’re welcome to share a story.”
She listed the names of some of the students on the call to facilitate their participation, but then commented that if she missed any students’ names there were 27 of them on the call and they were welcome to chime right in.
There was silence. Until one of them eventually spoke:
“I feel like there are times that I didn’t want to stay silent but I didn’t really know what to say. I have social anxiety so I feel like there are a lot of times I’ve not said anything.”
Bangoura then answers that it was likely fear of open conflict, which they had labeled as an attribute of white supremacy culture on a previous slide, is probably what led the 7th grader to feel uncomfortable speaking up. Other elements of white supremacy include individualism, objectivity, defensiveness, and a sense of urgency.
Virginia Litchfield, a Youth and Family Restorative Justice Liaison with the Burlington Community Justice Center who is based in the school district, then spoke up:
“I think these are skills too that, as white people, we don’t often practice them.”
Litchfield goes on to say that whiteness and power go hand-in-hand.
“When there’s a power imbalance, like if you’re talking to your teacher or your boss. Power is important, and power and whiteness generally go together. It’s baked into the system.”
Welcome to the most woke school district in America.
On June 1, 2020, Burlington School District welcomed a new superintendent, Tom Flanagan. Flanagan started his time in the role by creating a 100-Day Entry Plan, filled with every woke buzzword you could possibly imagine: Restorative practices, social-emotional learning, culturally responsive teaching, etc…
At the center of his plan was equity.
If you’re new to the world of the woke, the concept of equity might sound nice, but it is fundamentally different than the concept of equality.
Equality is the idea that everyone - regardless of race, gender, or any other immutable characteristics - should have access to the same opportunities. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. referenced when he expressed his desire for his children to be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Everyone trains for the race, shows up at the starting line, does their best, and the best person on that day wins.
Equity is a bit different. It’s the concept of eliminating all disparity in outcomes so that everyone ends up in the same place. Imagine everyone running a race finishes at exactly the same moment, regardless of how hard they trained - that’s equity. When followed to its logical conclusion, it fundamentally eliminates the opportunity for greatness.
In this plan, Flanagan included the following promises, among many others:
Launch a Race and Equity workshop series with central office leaders and principals. The clips we’ve seen in this article are the result of that series.
Develop a plan to implement restorative practices in all district schools.
Develop a comprehensive equitable budget.
Although the Race and Equity workshop series provides us with an interesting perspective into the grooming of the students attending the school, that last bullet point about the budget tells you the clips in this article are not a fluke, a miscommunication, or a misunderstanding.
A budget articulates what your values are. The Burlington School District is building its entire budget on equity. That’s the foundation of their entire system of education. It’s not about teaching kids to read, write, and do math. It’s about creating equal outcomes.
That also means they are allocating resources collected from the taxpayers unequally to students as a means of reducing disparity in outcome. They are literally applying the ideology forwarded by Karl Marx when he said “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
The district breaks its budget down into three parts: A baseline model used for staffing, non-personnel funds based on the number of students, and finally a RISE allocation based on equity. RISE stands for Recognizing Injustice and Seeking Equity.
Here’s how the RISE allocation works:
Each school in the district gets a base amount per student of $230 for the RISE allocation.
For each student with disabilities, that base amount is multiplied by 1.6, leading to $368 per student.
For each student that is learning English, that base amount is multiplied by 1.58, leading to $363 per student.
For each student deemed to be living in poverty based on receiving a free or reduced lunch, that base amount is multiplied by 2.97, leading to $683 per student.
That leads to large sums of money that each school can invest as it sees fit in equity.
Burlington High School is getting $421,061 of extra money to invest in equity. Hunt Middle School is getting $170,342. Edmunds Middle School is getting $170,055. And so on, and so forth. That’s over $300 of extra equity money per student in all the schools in the district. Remember, the Burlington School District has less than 4,000 students across all of these schools.
What do the schools do with that extra equity money? We’re not sure yet, except that the Principals of each school are supposed to meet with their School Advisory Groups to create plans for that money. This would be an amazing FOIA or Public Records request if anyone is so inclined.
But we know the parents and the community support it. In fact, in the equitable budget meeting, one mother of a kindergartener discussed the benefit of an equitable budget and “re-segregating” the schools:
“I’m a mom to a kindergartener and so just coming into a school system with this kind of equitable budget process as an intro is awesome…My daughter goes to (one of the magnet schools in the district) and I’m coming up to speed with some of the benefits they offer, particularly with the re-segregation of schools across the country creating some of these positive benefits.”
While we’re waiting for our FOIA requests to learn more about how the equity dollars are being spent by each school (and remember to always FOIA their emails with strategic keywords - they always forget those are public records), we can examine some of the investments the district has made in the past few years that will inevitably trickle down.
They have an entire district operation dedicated to equity
Burlington School District has an Equity office fully staffed with five full-time district employees who are working with staff based in each of the schools. They have been building this operation since 2011, with equity annual report data on their website since 2013. They do almost everything transparently, creating a decade of information regarding their operation that doesn’t even require a public records request. If there are any real journalists left, it is a dream treasure trove of documents that will keep them busy for months.
In October 2020, the Burlington School District issued a statement on anti-racism that, in part, read the following:
“We recognize there is much work to be done in our commitment to dismantling the systems of oppression within our practices, policies and procedures. We at BSD strongly denounce racism in all its forms. We dedicate ourselves to examining our practices in order to eradicate systemic racism in our school community. We stand in solidarity with Black students, faculty and staff in condemning racial injustice. We believe Black Lives Matter and stand behind local nonviolent youth activism committed to Anti-racism.“
In November of 2020, the Burlington School District raised the Black Lives Matter flag.
In December 2020, they brought back segregation by creating BIPOC Affinity Spaces, a safe space for students of the “global majority” (their term for anyone who is not white).
They’ve launched restorative practices across all of the schools in the district to promote what basically amounts to a struggle session in the classroom.
They’ve launched a racial justice academy.
And so on and so forth. You can see their accomplishments on their website.
They’re integrating it into the curriculum
At Edmunds Middle School, where some of the students featured earlier in this article attend, they are actively working to make sure the budget priority of equity is integrated into the curriculum. A newsletter released on September 18, 2020 says the following:
“Our new superintendent Tom Flanagan shared, “The equity plan is framed around three priorities: equity, engagement and deep learning.
Our Humanities Department has aligned its curriculum with these priorities. As social justice will be the unifying theme throughout the year, seventh and eighth grade students will build on the existing sixth grade Humanities social justice curriculum and go into greater depth.
Students will explore social justice through the lens of historically marginalized groups. Students will learn about the experiences of these groups, analyze the historical roots of oppressive systems and attitudes, consider their role in shaping a more just society, and take specific action around an issue they feel strongly about. ”
Note the part where they are encouraging middle school students to “take specific action.” They are targeting their curriculum around priming their students to feel that injustice is all around them. They’re being taught that being a good person means becoming an activist.
They’re weaponizing the students
Activist turned Congressional Candidate Lily Tang Williams is a Chinese immigrant who has spoken extensively about her experience growing up in China during Mao’s cultural revolution. She describes how children were weaponized to turn against their parents, pitted against each other, and were used against anyone trying to stop the revolution that would lead to today’s Chinese Communist Party.
The equity team in the Burlington School District, perhaps unwittingly, is doing this exact same thing. The difference is that they are pitting the students against the teaching staff as a means of rooting out systemic racism, oppression, and white supremacy. It is very similar to what happened at the infamous Evergreen State College uprising, documented by Benjamin Boyce.
They’re creating little activists
In collaboration with the University of Vermont, students at Edmunds Middle school participate in YPAR, or Youth Participatory Action Research. As you can see from their online meeting notes, YPAR meetings are mostly spent discussing social justice issues across a variety of critical theory: Race, Gender, Ability, and LBGTQIA+. They’ve even won an award for being the best activists in all of youth activists.
You can hear Assistant Principal Nicole Ellis discuss their work here:
“I want to shout out to our middle school YPAR group at EMS. They’ve been really pushing the district to honor the different genders which represent our students and they collect data.”
Summer Racial Justice Camp
The District launched a Summer Racial Justice Academy in 2021, where 51 students spent five weeks working to dismantle systems of oppression, explore rage and oppression, and participated in segregated “affinity spaces” with students who shared their racial identity.
Students also filmed a video for their teachers imploring them to do better to dismantle oppressive systems, with messages like “educate each other,” “don’t kick us out the classroom,” “respect is not given, it’s earned,” “my skin color does not define me,” “establish better communication,” and “it’s your job to care.”
These suggestions may seem innocent…until we look at them in context with a series of recommendations they came up with for school administrators. Then they start to look like the beginning of a struggle session!
Demands from the academy attendees to their teachers and school administrators included the following:
White people not recognizing their bias has forced many BIPOC students into a position where they are disengaged and stripped of their education.
Attend white affinity (segregated) spaces to learn about their privilege and bias.
A demand that teachers unpack their bias and practice having conversations about race with each other so they are more competent when they have them with students.
Hold adults who cause harm accountable (they do not define what harm means).
Ensure BIPOC students have BIPOC classmates and have guidance counselors review class lists to ensure BIPOC youth are not alone in their classes, particularly classes where race is discussed.
Create support systems for BIPOC teachers/staff.
Give students agency over themselves and their education and dismantle the power dynamic between youth and adults.
The district is already planning for this year’s Summer Racial Justice Academy 2.
They’re grooming the students on what to say
Watch this video in which a 7th-grade student (with they/them pronouns) seems to embody a full-fledged social justice warrior. You can see the indignation with which they assert that students who commit harm are not punished at all and that black students and students who speak up against hate speech are almost always punished more severely. And where did they learn this? Social justice club!
This occurred during a webinar about student and family rights that occurred on January 19, 2022. Children do not learn these things unless adults teach them. This is a 7th grader. They’re 12-years-old.
And for what it’s worth, it is not true what the student said about black students getting suspended more frequently, and the Director of Equity - Henri Sparks, who asked him which populations are affected - knew that when he asked the question. This is from the School Board Snapshots Goals Report for school year 20-21. This webinar took place almost a year after this data was reported.
A prediction: Burlington Vermont will be the first American city run on equity
Generally speaking, there’s no reason to believe that the majority of the citizens of Burlington have a problem with the way things are going. Vermont is an extremely blue state with a Democratic supermajority in its statehouse. And of course, Burlington is its most woke city.
The people of Burlington want their children to be educated into a far-left progressive ideology, and they should absolutely have the freedom to do so. Freedom means the freedom to screw up your kids and your community and the final outcome is yet to be determined.
But there is no sign of this slowing down.
According to the school district, 79% of staff and 72% of community members support the equitable budget strategy and agree that resources should be allocated just as Karl Marx would do it, to each according to their needs.
And just last month, three 21-year-olds who are all recent Burlington High School graduates won election to their school board. Those who were educated in a school built on equity will now be in charge of running the school based on equity.
Our interest is in the impact of all of this. What will Burlington achieve by building its entire educational system on equity? Will grades improve? Increased acceptances to the most elite colleges? Will they rank the highest in reading, writing, and math scores? And what if outcomes don’t move? What if they get worse? Will their white superintendent be fired for not doing his job of dismantling systemic racism?
We may be watching the first American city built entirely on equity develop before our very eyes. What will the outcome be? Will the city turn into a modern-day utopia…or an American version of communist China?
This article scratches the surface of the information we’re uncovering in Burlington, Vermont and it goes far beyond the school district. In the next article, we’ll walk you through the city’s racial equity strategic roadmap. Subscribe to follow along and support this work.
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