By Guy Page
A group of concerned parents and students gathered Friday, July 9 in Orleans. NEK-TV videotaped the hour-long community discussion of Critical Race Theory in the Orleans Central Supervisory Union (OCSU). Vermont Daily coverage of this meeting hit a nerve: In just 24 hours Rebekah Perry’s reporting became the most-read Vermont Daily news article of the year, perhaps ever.
Watching with astonishment how thousands of readers responded to a meeting of about 100 people in the tiny Northeast Kingdom town of Orleans, I decided to watch the entire video. Below are three excerpts of interest to parents concerned about the strong push for racial “equity” in Vermont schools.
First, meeting organizer Sen. Russ Ingalls (R-Essex Orleans) told the audience [9 minutes, 38 seconds] that many people would not attend the meeting out of fear of losing their jobs. This fear is justified, as former Windsor School principal Tiffany Riley (fired for questioning Black Lives Matter) and Essex Junction lifeguard Alex Katsnelson (fired for speaking out at a public meeting against CRT) have learned. His remarks included the following:
“In the time I started making people aware of [this meeting], I’ve spoken to over 30 people who expressed their wishes to come but were afraid of actually being fired from their jobs. Most of the people were from the school systems. Unfortunately, some were from the state and some were from other companies.
“I told them I would protect their identities. I do see a few of those people here tonight, which is nice. But the thought that you could come and express your opinion or want to learn more about something and you actually have the fear of being fired from your job – that just isn’t how it should be.
“We should be able to come and be respectful to one another, talk about our ideas, talk about our differences And then, at the end of the day, still show up at the same restaurant or church or wherever you want to be, and you’ve agreed to disagree.”
Ben Morley, founder FAIR Education for Orleans Central Supervisory Union (OCSU), was the featured speaker. The vocational rehabilitation counselor and holder of an MBA in public administration said ‘equity’ differs from ‘equality.’ Equality is about equal opportunity for everyone. Equity, however, recognizes that some people need extra help – and for many people, that’s okay, Morley said [34:34 mark]:
“I’m for equity in a lot of different ways. Financial equity, for students that have single parent households. Mentorships from mental health professionals. I’m for that. There is something to the idea that the majority outnumbers a minority, and so in some situations a kid can be bullied for that.
“But they need to address that for each individual student. You don’t need this radical culture shift. It doesn’t happen frequently. It’s not an everyday thing in our school system, as much as they’d like you to believe that. There is some vulnerability to being a minority in a majority white school district, so I can understand that what really helps with this is ethical diversity, equality and inclusion training. It allows everybody to share their own experience. People aren’t making assumptions for people just based on the color of their skin.
“As soon as the facilitator has a political bias, you can throw that right out the window because they take it as an opportunity to get everyone in the room to affirm what their belief system is. They’ll categorize individuals, they’ll sub-group individuals, and they’ll say ‘this is what your situation is, accept it.’ That’s so unethical and so immoral. It’s the exact opposite of what’s supposed to be happening to achieve equity.”
One unidentified woman of color said the white privilege, black victim narrative breaks down with her bi-racial daughter [36:27]:
“My issue is, as a person of color, who’s teaching my daughter about critical race theory? Like you said, they’re going to categorize it.
“She’s half black, half white. So is she oppressed on one half and then white privilege on the other half? I mean, really, this is crazy.
“We need to teach kids from this little [gesturing to toddler height] to treat everybody the same no matter what their color of their skin. If you take an x-ray, I take an x-ray, we’re all the same. Teach them to love everybody for who they are, no matter if you’re poor, rich, black, white, purple, who cares?”
A similar Town Hall meeting will be held tonight at the Canadian Club on Rte. 14 in Barre, beginning at 6 pm.