Television special looks at Vermont diversity and its effect on schools
A television special airing Thursday will look at how Vermont’s increasingly diverse population could manifest into questionable student behaviors in schools.
Vermont Public Television’s “Diversity Report Card” special at 8 p.m. will discuss, in a live town hall-style forum, ethnic diversity in the state’s public schools and how some conflicts have arisen inside school walls regarding the treatment of new Americans.
A panel of experts includes Patrick Brown, executive director, Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center; Jeanne Collins, superintendent, Burlington School District, and Charles Johnson, education consultant for the Vermont Department of Education Safe Schools program. They will consider how schools can best achieve their diversity goals, including the impacts of testing requirements of non-English speakers, such as in the case of some Burlington schools.
Collins nearly lost her job as district leader this school year after students protested, saying the city’s schools failed to educate minority and new Americans, and some even hinted at racism.
The Burlington School Board last month adopted a diversity and inclusion plan.
Joe Merone, a senior producer at VPT, said the protest happened too late last school year for the station to do an in-depth piece on the issue so it’s doing it now.
The motivation for the special was to look at what happened in Burlington but then, after speaking with experts, Merone said there was more to the issue than what was on the surface.
“What was interesting to me was listening to (Robert) Appel (director of the VT Human Rights Commission) drawing the distinction between harassment and bullying,” Merone said.
“We didn’t know there was a distinction, let alone how it works into the world of diversity.”
It was also news to Merone to learn that most cases of harassment and bullying in Vermont schools happens in middle school.
Jon Margolis is an author with VPT and wrote an investigative report posted on the VPT blog Thursday that looked at the state’s growing diverse population and the effect it has on kids in schools.
Vermont is still the second whitest state at 95.5 percent, but not as white as it was 10 years ago, according to the U.S. Census, a statistic listed in Margolis’ report.
“In the last 10 years, the black population doubled to more than 6,200 and the number of Hispanics rose 67 percent to more than 9,200. The Asian-American population rose about 50 percent to more than 8,700, and more than 10,000 Vermonters reported that they were an amalgam of two or more races,” according to Margolis’ report.
During the Thursday show, students in the studio audience will ask questions, and viewers will be invited to call 1-866-424-LIVE or email firstname.lastname@example.org with their comments and questions.
cristina.kumka @rutlandherald.comMORE IN Central Vermont
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