by Guy Page
In response to national media attention and social media criticism over a controversial gender identity education webinar, the Burlington School Department pulled the webinar from public view and reported the social media messages – all of them non-threatening – to Burlington police.
The fuss began on Monday, April 4, when Actively Unwoke blogger Karlyn Borysenko published screenshots and video from the Feb. 8 webinar, “Let’s Talk About Gender Identity an Expression.” As the Actively Unwoke post shows, talk they did. Many Burlington educators shared tips on prompting students to accept gender identity education and stand up for transgender students.
The April 4 Actively Unwoke column is now a significant repository of original-source information about the Feb. 8 webinar, which is no longer available for public view. The link for the webinar, presumably produced by the school district with taxpayer funds, was public until sometime late last week, after the Fox News story aired. Now, clicking on the link results in an icon saying, “This video is unavailable. This video is private.”
Other online news outlets – including Vermont Daily Chronicle hours after it was first posted – picked up Borysenko’s story. Two days later millions of Fox News watchers were introduced to the Burlington School District in an episode on The Ingraham Angle entitled ‘Doom and Groom.’ Not surprisingly, the story elicited nationwide social media comment, some of it unfavorable. The “Burlington School District staff and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have received hateful, harmful and discriminatory messages from across the country,” Superintendent Tom Flanagan wrote in a letter to the school community posted on Facebook.
In his letter, Flanagan says “we are working with the Burlington Police Department to ensure our staff and community are safe and protected.” He offers no specific details about the ‘harmful’ messages, However, Flanagan reportedly told VT Digger there were a total of 20 messages and “there were no direct threats to the district.”
This decision led one letter-writing Burlingtonian to wonder why non-threatening messaging was reported to the cops – and if he’s now on the BPD radar.
“I am sure you are aware of the VTDigger story on the Burlington School District Workshop on gender,” he wrote to Vermont Daily Chronicle. “One can debate the workshop topic, but I was taken aback by the fact that emails were turned over to the police, even those who were deemed non-threatening. We are now at a point where groups demand more than equal rights, but special consideration. I’m sure I now am on a special list.”