by Christopher Paslay
Why would any Burlington parent put up with such belligerent behavior, let alone want policies presented in such a manner in their schools?
Last week, a school board meeting in the Burlington Area School District in Wisconsin was shut down by Black Lives Matter protesters. Organized by the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism, the meeting abruptly ended Monday night with shouting, arguments, and school board members exiting the building with police protection.
According to the Journal Times:
The issue at hand was a proposal that BASD adopt an anti-racism policy and curriculum, which advocates have demanded but others in the community have opposed and the school board has not adopted. Such polices have been internally discussed since March. The demands have been made after numerous allegations of racism in Burlington schools, with critics saying the school district has done little to discourage such behavior.
A mother of a former student who attended Burlington schools insisted BASD refused to acknowledge racism in their schools, and cared nothing for black and brown children.
Although the mother insisted the Burlington Area School District has remained silent about racial issues, and that the educators in the room have made it clear that they don’t care about black and brown children, BASD documents show otherwise.
In July of 2020, the Burlington Area School District issued a public letter directly responding to several accusations of racism made by the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism.
One accusation was that the school district had “inequitable hiring practices.” The activist group stated that “the district refused to hire a qualified black assistant principal for Burlington High School and instead, hired a white person with less experience.”
BASD respectfully responded to this accusation by stating:
The goal of BASD’s collaborative hiring process is to identify the very best candidate for the position and make a recommendation to hire to the school board. BHS’s vacant assistant principal position received 69 applications. Sixteen applicants were interviewed in the first round by four BHS staff and administrators. Five applicants participated in the final round of interviews with fourteen staff on the final interview team.
The Burlington Area School District sent a letter to families and staff (Seeking Solidarity) on June 3, 2020, after the BHS assistant principal hire. We continue to be committed to equitable hiring practices and hiring a diverse workforce.
The second accusation of so-called racism by the Coalition revolved around student suspensions. The Coalition claimed that “the suspension rates were 25 times higher for 39 black students in the entire district than 2,505 white students.”
A look at the actual numbers showed a completely different picture, however. According to actual data from the 2018-2019 school year (which is the most recent available), 4 of the district’s 43 black students were suspended (9%), while 54 of the districts 2,523 students were suspended (2%).
BASD wrote in response, “This data confirms that in the 2018-2019 school year, the suspensions of black students compared to their white counterparts were 4.45 times greater, not 25 times. We recognize that this is an area where we can explore a more restorative approach to student discipline.”
A third accusation made by the Coalition was that “black kids we’re being called the n-word on a daily basis and Mexican kids we’re being called beaners and wetbacks. . . . Also, white students were regularly displaying Confederate flags on their person, lockers and vehicles.”
After a thorough investigation, BASD found these accusation were not credible. The district wrote in their letter:
The BASD has no evidence to support the assertion about these behaviors having merit. That said, we fully recognize that there are past and present student-to-student microaggressions that may or may not be intended as racist but inflict harm to others and communicate hostility and negativity. We know this can be hurtful and will continue to do all we can to ensure that every student and staff member feels welcome and valued in our schools and within the Burlington community.
As a part of BASD’s public response to the Coalition, Superintendent Stephen T. Plank wrote a personal response, stating in part:
I write to you today representing the BASD as an educator, school leader and member of the greater Burlington community. . . . I, too, wish to be an ally in the efforts to put an end to the racism that causes anguish in our community and our country. I see the BASD as partners in making change happen in our community. The Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism has brought forth four desired outcomes, in short, to: update curriculum, require diversity and inclusion training, increase the number of educators of color in our district, and encourage other districts to follow our lead are acknowledged. The BASD has been pursuing action around your four points and more to take an aggressive stance toward eliminating racism in the Burlington area community.
Yet according to the Coalition, black lives don’t matter, and BASD has done nothing to end racism in the schools.
But there is a clear irony underlying the Coalition’s actions. One of the components contained in their anti-racism policy proposal involves ending student harassment and bullying. But when one takes a look at how the members of the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism acted during Monday’s school board meeting, it’s clear they failed to model the very behaviors they claimed to want in the school; the protesters were belligerent and disrespectful, bullying and harassing the school board members, insisting that their anti-racist curriculum should have superseded the scheduled agenda, creating chaos to the point where the police were needed to retain order (see video above).
The behavior of the Coalition says everything you need to know about their so-called anti-racism curriculum. As the saying goes, “Rules for thee, but not for me.” As evidenced by their blatant disregard for those around them, it becomes clear these so-called concerned community members care little for creating an environment free from bullying and harassment. Why would any parent put up with such behavior, let alone want their policies in the district?
And while some of the Coalition’s anti-racism curriculum has merit — like their efforts to bring about diversity and inclusion, and to protect victims of harassment — the core of the policy centers around the principals of anti-racism, which are extremely polarizing and divisive.
An anti-racist approach to equity involves stereotyping entire groups of people — branding all whites as inherently racist, privileged, and suffering from anti-blackness, while labeling all people of color as oppressed victims who have no control over their own lives; the empowerment of people of color depends on the dismantling of whiteness and so-called white supremacy culture.
Anti-racism is a zero-sum approach, which in effect is more about indoctrinating students and community members into adopting the ideology of identity politics, and transforming our youth into partisan activists.
And ironically, where has such activism gotten the Coalition? The disruption of the school board meeting kept their own agenda from being considered, and according to the Journal Times, the Burlington Area School District’s communications director, Julie Thomas, said she did not know when the items from Monday’s agenda may be taken up again.
In the end, the infantile temper tantrum put on by the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism got them tossed out of the meeting and into the parking lot, where in all honesty, they should remain until they can learn to conduct themselves in a manner that actually models the behaviors they claim to support.