Students at a Vermont middle school plan to raise the Black Lives Matter flag on campus today as a statement against the “systemic racial injustice that plagues American public schools.”
Burlington school board members unanimously approved a plan to raise the flag at 1 p.m. today as part of Black History Month, and it’s expected to remain flying until school lets out this summer, WCAX reports.
According to VTDigger:
The student-run group Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) Collective at Edmunds collected data, wrote a proposal and presented to the school board seeking approval to fly the flag.
Greta Ketterling, one of YPAR’s 11 members, all of whom are in eighth grade, said the group wanted to follow in the footsteps of Burlington High School, which raised the Black Lives Matter flag last year. Edmunds students organized an anti-racism walk out last May with 300 participants.
Two years ago, the students partnered with researchers at the University of Vermont to conduct a survey of sixth-graders and “the results came back and there was some pretty upsetting numbers about how students felt that both other students and teachers were partaking in racial discrimination,” student Anyier Manyok told the news site.
YPAR combined the survey results with other data to back up their board request to fly the Black Lives Matter flag at Edmonds. The survey showed 36 percent of students believe there’s racial discrimination at the school, while a third of white and black students believe teachers discriminate based on race.
Examples included “unconscious bias” like a student dress code that prohibits do-rags, as well as more obvious things like students poking fun at their classmates who wear hijabs, VTDigger reports.
“It was just a lot of racism and a lot of – the kids just weren’t aware of what they were saying,” Manyok said.
YPAR students told board members that if they don’t allow them to raise the Black Lives Matter flag, they’re essentially racist, as well.
“If you’re neutral, you’re really for racism because you’re not trying to do anything about it or trying to stop it,” student Henry Tornwini said.
“If you’re not fighting the system, you’re complicit with its wrongs,” Ketterling added.
The BLM flag at Edmonds follows numerous other Vermont schools that have raised the flag in recent years, including Montpelier High School, Rutland High School, Essex High School, and others, WCAX reports.
Burlington Superintendent Yaw Obeng issued a prepared statement applauding the YPAR students for their efforts, which also includes proposed changes to the school dress code, a school mural in support of LGBTQ students, and a video of a “day in the life” of a student of color at Edmonds, according to VTDigger.
“It takes selfless courage to advocate for an inclusive space that will primarily be to the benefit of our future students,” Obeng wrote.