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Darnisha Garbade

After initially vowing to cooperate on implementing anti-racism reforms, Burlington school officials are now having second thoughts. They are considering challenging the state's authority to order them to include one of the district's leading critics in the process and also questioning whether they will actually follow the state order to hire a director of student equity.

"This is a time for us as a board to take a stand and say no to DPI," Burlington School Board Member Taylor Wishau said during a meeting Monday. "They're not the authority for us down here." But School Board President Peter Turke quickly corrected Wishau, saying: "I'm pretty confident that DPI does have authority to govern school districts."

The Burlington Area School District plan for fixing racism issues in the schools has been approved by state officials, with one qualification — the parent whose complaint launched the investigation must be part of the solution.

The Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism founded by Darnisha Garbade had repeatedly called to be invited "to the table" for the development and execution of an anti-racism plan, but BASD leaders had never shown a willingness to include them.

The Burlington Area School District plans to introduce new curricula starting in kindergarten, among other steps designed to combat racism following a scathing state report criticizing the district for allowing a "racially hostile environment" to exist in the schools following a parent's complaint. "We recognize the need for radical change," the district's response states. "We are a school district inside of a city, state and country that is steeped in racism."

  • 4 min to read

Last year, the Burlington Area School District said it didn't find any evidence of racism in its schools. Now, after a state investigation, BASD is being ordered to address the 'racially hostile environment' it has allowed to exist.

The Department of Public Instruction's report said that BASD systemically failed to address race-based harassment that was been continuing within the district. "There was a significant absence of any district-wide and systematic consideration of how to address underlying causes of the harassment, and ensure such racial harassment would not continue."

In a message to students from the teacher that was shared on social media, the teacher indicated he was planning to travel to Washington this week to protest President Trump's defeat.

Jeff Taff, a high school social studies teacher, told students that he was "standing up for election integrity," according to an online lesson plan shared on social media. The Burlington Area School District is investigating.

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