Black Lives Matter VT Wants to Collaborate With Vermont Schools

Group presented findings on racial disparities related to suspensions

BURLINGTON, Vt. - Wednesday, Black Lives Matter Vermont presented data about racial disparities and their connection to suspensions and expulsions in the Burlington School District.

Black Lives Matter Vermont co-founder Ebony Nyoni says while data shows suspensions in the Burlington School District have dropped over the past year, there still needs to be a change in schools.

"These disparities will start to dissipate when we put some energy and focus into our education system and keeping students there," said Nyoni.

Burlington School District has introduced a new program to try and reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions, called restorative practices.

Burlington Superintendent Yaw Obeng says restorative practices don't exclude kids from their learning like a suspension would, but rather administrators talk with the kids to try and correct the problem.

"Restorative practice was identified as a priority and so it very much connects to inclusive school environments, as well as discipline," said Obeng.

Obeng says the program was implemented at Hunt Middle School this year. He adds the school saw a 40-percent reduction in suspensions this school year.

"If you look, the disparity gap has closed, so that gives is some encouragement that things we're doing are working," said Obeng.

The goal is to introduce this program into all of the schools in the Burlington School District.

Black Lives Matter Vermont says it will publish its findings to its website this week.

The group looked at data spanning from 2010 to 2016, and says students of color are getting suspended at much higher rates than their white counterparts.

The group hopes to work with the Burlington School District, and eventually other Vermont school districts, to develop a way the public can access suspension and expulsion data in one, easy to find portal.

Obeng says the suspension data is posted monthly on the school's website, but those from BLM VT argue the information is hard to navigate through.

"We're not disputing that there is a disparity. We're looking at the data and we're moving on to the next step in terms of, 'Ok there's a challenge what do we do about it?, how do we deal about it?' So that's what we're looking for people to come on board and help us in the terms of the next step in terms of adjusting this concern," said Obeng.

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