By Guy Page
A parent of a Burlington High School student said parents were not notified when virtually every student participated in a “walk out” of the school, with administrators’ blessing and supervision, to attend a downtown March 11 gay pride rally organized by the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA). In a string of emails with the concerned parent, the school principal refused to explain why parents were not notified of the event either before, or afterwards.
BHS Principal Lauren McBride wrote in an email to students on March 11:
“I would like to publicly thank and acknowledge the amazing work of our GSA for organizing the walkout. It was powerful to see almost 900 BHS and EMS (Edmunds Middle School) students gather on the steps of City Hall.”
In a later, separate letter to the concerned parent – who declined to be identified – McBride showed full support for the walkout and would not explain why she didn’t notify parents afterwards, despite repeated requests.
In a note to Vermont Daily Chronicle, the parent expressed strong concern about ‘political indoctrination’ and lack of parental notification.
“I objected to the use of school resources such as the intercom system to corral students. I objected to the school administration taking sides on a political issue. I also objected to the lack of notification to parents of any kind. To this date the administration has not notified parents about this political indoctrination exercise with students.
“My child did not join this protest. All but one other student in the class left the building, and according to my child, most for the hope that they could roam Burlington unsupervised. I had to learn about the protest from my student and from the news. The school administration is actively hiding mention of the protest and their involvement from parents.”
McBride denied the event was political: “While I am driven by district policies, it is important to note that within BSD, we believe LGBTQIA+ rights are equity issues, not political issues.
In this instance, due to the nature of the walkout I was supporting our students through an equity lens and also focused on student safety. Since we received information that the walkout may happen, we needed to ensure that our community would be supported and safe. Part of our support was giving them access to the intercom because that allowed us to control what otherwise could have resulted in chaos. Additionally, we attended the walkout with them. I had alerted our District Office and we were joined by the Superintendent and his staff as well – all focused on ensuring student safety.”
In the last of a back-and-forth string of emails shared with Vermont Daily Chronicle, the parent asked McBride (again): “what is stopping you from notifying parents after the fact? Please take this simple step of communications with parents.”
In her response email, McBride did not answer or even address the question. Instead she replied, “I have not intentionally evaded your question….” then shared more information that had nothing to do with notifying parents.
The student-operated BHS Register online news outlet published photos and a news story about the rally on March 11. However the BHS Facebook Page – managed by the school officials – did not.