“What is the real agenda?,” parents ask school board
by Guy Page
As reported yesterday in the Vermont Daily Chronicle, more than 1000 Milton residents have signed a petition asking the Milton School Board and administrators to reject the proposed equity policy, or failing that, place the question before Town Meeting voters.
“The next step is to wait to see if the school board responds to our request to put this on the next school board agenda for January 5,” petition co-organizer Nichole DeLong said Monday. “We will continue this fight – we are just warming up.” The fight will include supportive candidates running for school board, if necessary.
The climactic December 15 meeting placing the petition before the school board was the result of months of door-to-door petition gathering by a small group of concerned Milton residents calling themselves VPACT (Vermont Parents Against Critical Theory). Speaking for VPACT were several core organizers: Brock Rouse, Nick Smith, Scott O’Brien, Allison Duquette, and DeLong. In the public interest, their comments are published verbatim below, and a VPACT video of the meeting is presented above.
Brock Rouse – Milton Resident
We, the Vermont Parents Against Critical Theory (VPACT) are here tonight to represent a large group of concerned parents and citizens of Milton regarding the proposed Draft Equity Policy. We will be presenting substantial documentation, facts and evidence relating to this community’s continued opposition to this Policy. This includes a citizen’s petition for the abandonment of , a legal review of, and dozens of emails from community members relating to this proposed Policy.
As all of you know we have expressed our concern with this policy since its first release, but until now have been ignored as a fringe group. It was clearly evident from the recent “community dialogue” held on December 6, this group of concerned citizens is much larger than this Board has given credit to.
Over the past few months, we have spent hundreds of hours engaging our community with an honest open dialogue about this policy, something this Board has not done. During this process, we presented a petition to residents of Milton urging the Board to vote NO to the adoption of this recommended Equity Policy. We have over 1,000 signatures on this petition which includes parents, students, community members, teachers as well as current and former Board members. This is more than half of the total votes that were cast in the most recent School Board election. These signatures do not include the dozens of teachers we approached that opposed this policy but would not sign, due to fear of repercussions by school leadership and co-workers, who support, and are the driving force behind this policy.
In addition to our petition, we have spent countless hours participating in policy related meetings and providing feedback at every opportunity available.
Timeline of equity in our schools:
● In case this board needs any reminders, the Department of Education, the VSBA and all legal entities that review their policies, are working together to facilitate this radical woke ideology into our public schools.
● Conveniently, the MTSD’s 5 yr Strategic Plan becomes the perfect conduit to justify pushing this policy.
● In 2019, BLM had become center stage, dividing the nation prior to the 2020 elections. Cities and businesses were being destroyed, all the while schools were telling our children these were peaceful protests. Lies had become truths; truths had become lies.
● The social unrest that erupted as a result provided the perfect cover for a complete assault and takeover of our educational system. Woke Milton Teachers, Administrators and certain local activists, jumped at the opportunity to begin drafting this equity policy.
● The grooming of our children into social justice warriors was full speed ahead with the formation of the “Affinity Group” and “M4SJ” to highlight a few.
● In June of 2020, our Milton School Board and Milton Selectboard buckled like cheap lawn chairs following the media’s sensationalized death of George Floyd by signing a joint resolution of “racial equity”. Further empowering woke teachers and local activists to push through their agenda within our community.
● By the end of 2021, leading the charge, Wilmer Chavarria & Amy Rex had taken a 1 and a half page state recommended policy and drafted it into a 14-page Policy that would change the entire operations of our school.
In a nutshell, this policy is nothing less than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Truth and fact no longer mean anything under this policy. Feelings, emotions, sexuality and identity politics now take center stage. This policy is strategically designed to reinstitute how our school operates across all facets and it will be based on a Progressive, Socialist, and Marxist ideology. It will be the cancer that rapidly pollutes the minds of our kids and grooms them into social justice warriors. We see it for exactly what it is. The key members of this school’s leadership know exactly what it is and they have gone to great lengths to hide these truths from our tax paying citizens.
Here are the facts:
1. This policy is “recommended,” not required;
2. This policy will supercede all other policies;
3. This policy has unchecked legal ramifications;
4. This policy is Marxist and un-American;
5. This policy was put together 2 years ago by a committee with a woke agenda that no longer participates in current policy discussions;
6. This policy is lead by a committee that no longer takes questions and doesn’t include community comments in their meeting minutes;
7. This policy has received extensive and constant pushback for the past 10 months, including hundreds of questions, dozens of emails, numerous meetings attended in opposition;
8. This policy is riddled with Critical Race Theory & Queer Theory (openly admitted by Wilmer Chavarria);
9. This policy has already cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars;
10. And this policy has diverted valuable time and energy away from our children. So I ask you this, based on these facts, what is the real agenda?
Nick Smith – Milton Resident
So, what are the legal liabilities that this policy holds? We recently hired an attorney to review the current version of this policy, since neither the MTSD administration nor School Board thought it would be useful up to this point. Unsurprisingly the attorney found numerous problems including; missing legal references; obscure, lengthy and unintelligible language; open ended entitlement establishments; a mixture of policy and procedure; and most importantly multiple violations of First Amendment rights. We argue that this policy violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 due to it’s discriminatory nature. Due to all of these problems it is foreseeable that this policy is a liability to both MTSD and taxpayers. My question is, why are we wasting the public and MTSD administrative staff’s time and resources on a policy that has major legal liabilities? And, why did this board not take into consideration the public’s request for this policy to be legally reviewed in the past?
The definitions listed in this policy should be an embarrassment to whoever created them. We use the word created with purpose, since the majority of these definitions can’t be found in a standard dictionary and the ones that are in a dictionary are directly at odds with the colloquial definition. But this really is a moot point, since as stated in this policy these definitions “represent the meaning of words as used in this policy and are neither exhaustive nor permanent in meaning…” Not permanent in meaning? So the definitions in this policy can be revised and used however the policy implementers see fit. How convenient.
The draft Equity Policy directs the superintendent over a dozen times to oversee or implement large swaths of this policy with little or no reporting requirements. Some of the more egregious examples of this power delegation relate to the interpretation of what is misinformation, hate speech and neutrality. As previously noted, there are clear conflicts between these terms and the First Amendment of the Constitution. But besides that, why would we designate this much power to one person?
What about costs? Since day one we have had concerns that this policy will create unnecessary administrative positions and added costs to the school district and taxpayers. Time and time again we have requested an estimate of what this policy will cost our school district and its taxpayers. We continue to be fed the lie that there are no costs associated with this policy or its implementation. We ask the public to read the policy themselves and tell us where they think all of the funding for additional required equity training will come from. Hint, it will either come directly from our pockets, or it will be indirectly taken from our children by focusing on a commitment to equity, rather than a commitment to learning.
These are just some of the major problems with the Equity Policy as proposed. Perhaps of greater concern to parents, especially those who just wish to have a say in their children’s learning, is the way that this administration and board has treated concerned parents and their questions/comments. From the start this process has been a sham, designed to destroy the resolve of parents by requiring them to provide redundant feedback without ever receiving substantive responses or answers to their questions and comments.
So I ask you this, what is the real agenda?
Scott O’Brien – Milton Resident
This process has been long and drawn out, starting with the initial policy meetings held at the high school between the public and the policy creator, Wilmer Chavarria, and the superintendent, Amy Rex. During these initial meetings comments were written down, but were either never shared or ignored by this Board. During those meetings community members raised their concern that this policy was littered with Critical Theories, including critical race theory and queer theory. From a transcript on April 28 of this year, Wilmer even stated “I don’t want to get into this game that some districts have gotten into just because some people are upset about CRT the districts pretend that it’s not a thing. It is a thing. It is very present and it informs a lot of what we do.”
Critical Race Theory is the spawn of Critical Theory developed in the Frankfurt School. Critical race theory makes the argument that all systems are racist and then they look for the evidence. At the heart of it, one of CRT’s primary goals is to create a race conscious society where you can no longer view people as individuals but as groups. Whatever happened to “judge a man not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character?” This board is asking the people of this community to accept a policy which has the sole purpose to destroy the concept of individuality, meritocracy and unity.
Several weeks later a forum was held at the high school, which promised another opportunity for parents to make comments and ask questions. Instead, the event was formatted to use parents as interpreters to review detailed comments received via emails and distill them down to short bullet points. Why? What point did this have other than to obscure comments and questions from others and to stifle additional comments from being produced? Not to mention this forum was made up of a large portion of MTSD teachers and administrators in support of the policy, many of which don’t live in our school district. Why are we marketing these forums as “community forums” and then drowning out the voices of our community? Not very equitable.
Next the policy was sent to the MTSD Policy Committee, which is composed of two sitting board members, the equity diretor, the superintendent, and an administrative assistant. During these meetings committee members huddled around computers in the library making edits to the policy while whispering back and forth. Almost none of the comments emailed by this community were ever addressed during these meetings. Not only that, the committee ignored all comments or questions from those present, only allowing for public comment at the end of the meeting. Essentially these meetings were used to reformat the policy by cutting down its length and consolidating all of the same points into 9 pages rather than 14.
So I ask you this, what is the real agenda?
Allison Duquette – Milton Resident
Then came the second community forum meeting that was held just recently on December 6. The format was disgraceful. There was a brief introduction to all those present, during which neither comments on the policy, nor comments on the clear bias of the third party facilitator
were taken. After this, people were divided into groups to give comments on specific sections of the policy. If you had comments on more than three sections, well too bad for you, since there was only time to review three sections out of six.
Once in the groups, time was allotted to provide statements on the good and bad of the policy, rather than taking public comments or questions. Much like the first meeting, teachers in support of this policy were highly represented in each of the groups, no matter if they live in Milton or not. The small groups were run by “facilitators” which included activist teachers and students in the district that support the policy. Talk about bias, and if you don’t believe me read your own policy where you define bias.
We spoke to parents after the meeting who had not read the Equity Policy beforehand and it was clear that this forum did nothing to help with their understanding and didn’t even allow them the time to ask questions. The forum ended up being a feedback gathering mechanism for the school. How can you give feedback when you don’t understand what you’re giving feedback on? This forum was marketed as a “dialogue,” perhaps you should try to define that word in your next draft of this policy since it is clear you don’t understand what it means.
All and all, this forum was again another way for the administration to drown out descent against this equity policy, which doesn’t seem very neutral, even though that is what we were promised when asked about this event previously. In fact, EMStrategies, owned and operated by a member of the Vermont legislature and a self admitted equity activist, who was hired to facilitate the community dialogue about the equity policy, actively pushes equity agendas across the state. There are plenty of other companies that offer similar facilitating services that could have been chosen for this forum that are not involved in equity work and would have truly been neutral. Instead, the school went with a company that is known to push these agendas and even offered feedback on the policy itself. This is a huge conflict of interest and as taxpaying members of this community we should not be funneling money through the school to a company owned and operated by a sitting member of the Vermont legislature and self proclaimed activist.
The school spent $2000 of taxpayer money for the farce that took place last Tuesday. It is our understanding that a grant was applied for and not received. If funding for this was not secured from a source that didn’t involve money from the public before the forum took place, it should have been canceled. It is appalling that this is what our money is being spent on and what the school is deciding to focus on instead of bettering the proficiency rates of the students. Equally appalling is that we have been lied to multiple times that this policy will not cost a dime when that is obviously not true just based on this forum alone.
So I ask you this, what is the real agenda?
Nichole Delong – Milton Resident
In closing – we are providing; a copy of this statement, dozens of emails sent to the board and Administration from several concerned Milton residents about the proposed Equity Policy, the referenced petition with over 1,000 signatures from Milton residents, and a third party legal review – provided by an attorney out of Burlington that works with many Vermont School Districts.
For the reasons stated, we are asking our elected School Board Trustees to vote to abandon the proposed Equity Policy at the next board meeting and terminate any further work toward an Equity Policy. If the School Board chooses to continue with this policy, we request our filed petition to be put up for a vote on Town Meeting Day. This administration has committed too much time on this policy at the expense of more pressing issues such as academics, bullying, and core principles that prepare students for future success.
And as quoted directly from the Justice Foundation – “Parents’ fundamental rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children have been repeatedly recognized and protected by the United States Supreme Court. When creating the U.S. Department of Education, the United States Congress enacted statutory law that states “parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children,” and that “states, localities, and private institutions have the primary responsibility for supporting that parental role.”
We would like to remind the School Board Trustees that you are elected into your position to represent the voices of Milton parents and taxpayers. Therefore, you work for us; NOT for the Superintendent or Administration!