By Guy Page
A Milton parents’ group has circulated a citizens’ petition asking the Milton School Board to reject a proposed District Equity Policy.
At issue is the crucial difference in meaning between ‘equality’ and ‘equity.’
“Equality provides an even opportunity for all participants to excel based on merit and regardless of background,” the Vermont Parents Against Critical Theory (VPACT) petition states. “Equity seeks to promote equal outcomes artificially by redistributing resources benefitting some at the cost of others.”
“The MTSD Equity Policy aims to eliminate all inequities that exist in its current school system by influencing ‘policies and procedures on Curriculum, Personnel, Discipline, Operations, Speech, Assessment, Athletics, Co-curriculars, Data, Budget, and others,’” the petition states.
The latest draft of the policy is now under review by the school board’s policy committee. VPACT wants the school board to reject the final version when presented to the school board early next year.
Explaining that “language, like identity, is not static,” the draft policy defines terms, including:
Affirmation: “To recognize social/ economic disparities and historical disadvantages based on individual and group identity such as their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, experiences, ideas, and beliefs.”
Equity: “Procuring access to human and constitutional rights and privileges for everyone, with the understanding that achieving so requires different approaches because our barriers are unique.”
Gender identity: “A person’s actual or perceived gender identity, or gender-related characteristics that are intrinsically related to a person’s gender or gender-identity, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”
White: “Race or ethnicity in the US) the cultural and observable characteristics of people of Caucasian descent as well as those from other origins but whose skin color and culture lead to a lack of racialization as ‘brown,’ ‘Indigenous,’ or ‘Black.’ The legal definition of ‘white’ in the United States has changed over the years.”
Once the members of the newly-created, standing Advisory Board are appointed, it would develop “procedures which incorporate equity-conscious processes and practices in all operations, purchasing, and partnerships, to include the consideration of partner organizations and businesses’ existing policies and procedures regarding their practices in relation to equity and whether these are in alignment with those of the MTSD.”
The Advisory Board would answer directly to the (appointed) superintendent, not the (elected) school board. The role of the elected board would be limited to “review advisory panel reports and recommendations as they are created and provide prioritized and extended space for committee-appointed representatives to bring matters directly to the board.”
Curriculum and instruction changes would include “ensuring that curricular and instructional plans are designed with the least barriers possible from the start” and “providing teachers and schools with enough resources so that instruction is characterized by a high level of purposeful choice and personalization rather than narrow standardization of instruction.”
Transgender students’ participation in sports also would be addressed: “In addition to existing ongoing trainings and agreements on hazing, harassment, and bullying, require that all athletes, co-curricular club members, coaches and department personnel engage in Athletic Virtue-building conversations that directly relate to matters of equity, including, but not limited to anti-racism, tolerance, allyship, gender identity in sports, inclusion, diversity, and athletic virtue each season.”
The policy takes a strong stand against “misinformation,” including what it calls “Election-related Conspiracy Theories:”
“All curricular materials and school-level instructional plans will incorporate superintendent-issued guidance of what constitutes misinformation, intolerance toward innate differences, hate speech, and stereotypical narratives or tropes. Examples of limitations include Holocaust Denial, Election-related Conspiracy Theories, or speech that targets protected classes or that is primarily intended to disrupt the education program. The superintendent or their designee shall reiterate expectations for the acquisition and utilization of evidence-based content, the advancement of critical thinking, and the exposure to difficult yet necessary historical truths across all content areas.”
The group’s organizers say they will be meeting with lawyers to discuss the equity policy and presentation of the petition.