New Vermont bullying advocacy campaign seeks to tell stories

Students in a classroom at Essex High School. File photo

by Maya Porter, for Community News Service

A coalition of Vermont organizations has begun a new project to shed light on harassment, hazing and bullying in schools.

The storytelling project is called Vermont Narratives of Change and, according to its website, the organizers behind it “believe that by sharing collective stories, we can create connections and validation that support a healing process for affected students.”

The project will allow those affected by bullying and harassment in Vermont schools — students and their guardians — to share their stories either through a confidential form, an interview or a small group discussion. The means of sharing those stories — in a publication, for example, or through a documentary — is still to be determined. 

“It’s a problem,” said 16-year-old Hudson Ranney of the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network, one of the dozen organizations in the coalition, talking about bullying and harassment in schools. “Some people think it’s a joke, but it’s not a joke — it hurts people.” 

Groups involved include the Vermont Human Rights Commission and marquee names in advocacy circles like Outright Vermont, the Vermont American Civil Liberties Union and The Root Social Justice Center, among others, according to an Oct. 3 press release announcing the effort.

Mia Schultz, president of the Rutland NAACP, another of the organizations, said that right now, project organizers are collecting stories. How those stories will be shared, she said, is in the hands of those individuals telling their stories.

Schultz said the project intends to give marginalized students an opportunity to have their voices heard in a way they might not have otherwise. 

“We hear the stories, but the population in general do not … Maybe the real effective change is making sure everybody hears these stories so that change can be a collective pursuit with the public,” Schultz said, “so we can change the policies, change the laws, change the hearts and the minds of administrators and schools, to ensure safety for all of our children, no matter what their race is, no matter what their religion is, no matter what their abilities are.”

Schultz said the hope is to create a space for people to be heard outside of traditional pathways — such as the protocols schools have now to report and address bullying. 

That, she said, is because those pathways are often insufficient for people in marginalized communities.  

“There’s a lot of politicians that like to think that the hazing, harassment and bullying policy does protect against our most marginalized kids,” she said. “But when we see it happen all throughout the state — that there’s no resolution that really keeps them safe from day to day — we know that this is now a pattern.”

Through the project, the group wants to turn a spotlight toward that pattern.

“Just because something has always been that way doesn’t mean it always has to be that way,” said Melissa Houser, executive director of All Brains Belong, an organization involved with the project that works with neurodivergent people. “Just because bullying is common doesn’t mean we as a community are gonna accept that.” 

Houser explained bullying and harassment is a huge problem for neurodivergent children in schools and causes unnecessary trauma and suffering. 

“First step is helping the community understand the problem, then work towards the development of all spaces being welcoming, validating and inclusive, because all students deserve to feel validated and included at school,” Houser said.

Categories: Education

6 replies »

  1. -I wonder if they will have stories of teachers forcing children to put masks over the children’s faces so they can’t breathe?

    -Stories of forced indoctrination into critical race theory?

    -How about young children being taught perversely about sex and Gender?

    -Maybe they will even have stories about children being forced into taking an experimental jab that gives them a case of myocarditis which could kill them in less than 5 years just to alleviate teachers fear of an invisible virus that turned out to basically be the flu?

    Unlike the children I won’t be holding my breath…..

    • Well done, Brian. The irony is astounding, not that they would notice.

      When I was an undergraduate at a big state university, one that always fills its football stadium with over 100k rabid fans, a biology professor shared something I will never forget: Of the students who placed in the bottom third of the Intro Bio bell curve, the department they were most likely headed to was “Education”. Apparently they track these things…

      Now before we get all bent out of shape; of course there are good, dedicated, even brilliant teachers. Among them was my aunt, who majored in English, was hired and trained in the 50’s to teach high school students, and was locally renowned for the difficulty and quality of her class. It was a foregone conclusion that if she was a fanatic of Jane Austen, she could handle high school grammar and composition.

      It’s a wee bit different these days.

      • I love that “Teechers ArE StOOpId, ExCePt FoR tHe OnE rElAtEd tO mE” lol. I’m sure your story happened and the professors name was Albert Einstein

  2. The real bullies (actually grifters) who wish to dominate and subvert anyone not agreeing with their “coexist” overt prejudices and intolerances. The mission is to instill a victimhood and weakness mentality so there is no chance for the youth to succeed on their own merit, talent, creativity, or brain capacity. A gutless, spineless obedient, compliant, subservient, dead-eyed, soulless generation is their goal. Too bad for them their pending failure on all fronts is all ready decreed and declared. Play evil games while dancing with the devil: receive and collect participation just rewards!

  3. I was bullied from the first day of first grade straight on through middle school—back when the bullying was done with words and fists instead of texts. I’m grateful I had an empathic principal and guidance counselor to help me through it. But I wonder: would it have been better for me to be provided ever more “safe spaces” or, maybe, stand my ground and defend myself just once? Not every kid can do that, but those who can may be stronger in the long run. In the meantime, parents of bullies need to clean up their act. It starts in the home.

    • I was bullied in grade school as well. When I told my Grandfather what happened, he told me to say this next time: “It takes a bigger foundation to hold up a church than it does an outhouse!” So I did exactly that and within minutes, the mean girls and myself were seated at a table with my teacher discussing the situation. Never happened again. The bullies got the spotlight on them and I was given an opportunity to see the fear in their faces. Actions have consequences….very simple.