by Alex Nuti-de Biasi
An altercation at a Burlington parking garage captured on video has plunged Bradford and Oxbow High School into the middle of the social media spotlight.
The encounter, which appeared to occur last month, involved students from at least two area schools. There are about two minutes of several video clips that appear to show an adult woman using her smartphone to shoot video of a group of teenagers, including at least three girls.
The videos were posted on Twitter on Nov. 26, the day after Black Friday. At least two of the girls appeared to be holding shopping bags.
“In #Vermont, a #BlackTranswoman was not only verbally, but physically attacked but a bunch of students at a mall,” stated the posting on an unverified account. “Spread this around!”
At least one of the videos appears to be shot by the adult woman herself. Other videos appear to be shot by bystanders or friends of the woman.
In one video, the woman tells one of the girls that her friend made “a comment” about her and she wanted to find out the reason behind the comment.
“You know why I’m not going to touch you?” the woman asks one of the girls. “Because I’m black.”
In another video, one of the girls told the woman that she does “not consent” to being recorded before she appeared to knock the phone out of the woman’s hands. A second girl kicked the phone across the floor of the garage.
“You don’t know what I’m capable of,” the woman stated in a video. “I am not a man.”
One video featured a caption identifying one of the teen’s social media handles and the following script: “Smile ur on camera you racist transphobic peace of s***.”
It is not clear from the videos how the encounter ended. The Burlington Police Department did not respond to an inquiry about the incident.
Although the names of several individuals involved have circulated on social media, we are not identifying the juveniles or their parents and did not obtain contact information for the adult woman.
Although first posted on Nov. 26, the videos appeared to generate engagement over the weekend prompting a response from the school district as well as comments from Rep.-elect Monique Priestley, D-Bradford, and Zach Lang, her Republican opponent from Bradford in the 2022 election.
“I am disheartened and disturbed by the hateful behavior that occurred against a black trans woman the Friday after Thanksgiving involving students of several schools, including Oxbow High School,” Priestley wrote on Facebook. “Acts of hatred, such as this one, have no place in Vermont.”
Lang echoed those sentiments.
“I am saddened to hear of the recent incident regarding students from other schools as well as students from Oxbow High School bullying and harrassing an individual off of school campus,” he said. “Hate and discrimination is unacceptable and I hope that the appropriate actions are taken by those in charge.”
But a parent of one of the girls strongly disagreed with those assessments. He said the encounter started earlier inside a store. His daughter and her friends were “taunted” and baited into the altercation even after they tried on several occasions to walk away and disengage.
“It’s very disheartening to me,” he said about the reaction to the videos on social media. “I have family members who are in the LGBTQ+ community.”
He said the matter was still under investigation by the Burlington Police Department and could not speak at length.
Although the incident took place in Chittenden County, the Twitter user posting the videos also posted photos of the girls’ and Oxbow’s social media accounts. The school came under withering criticism on social media for its climate.
“We are aware of and recognize that there is a lot of hurtful posting of various videos and messages going around social media currently, much of which is misinformation,” said Oxbow administrators Ken Cadow, Ashley Youngheim, and Sarah Wellman in a statement posted on Facebook and sent to parents. “During times of uncertainty, angst, and intense emotions, many of us seek a sense of clarity and understanding so we can rationalize everything going on around us.”
Neither Cadow, Youngheim, or Wellman responded to an email seeking additional information.
Republished with permission from the December 7, 2022 Journal-Opinion, the weekly community newspaper for Bradford and surrounding towns on both sides of the Connecticut.