Does Burlington diversity plan do enough to fight racism? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Does Burlington diversity plan do enough to fight racism?

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Charges of racism and protesting students filled the grounds at Burlington High School last spring.

"It's very bad; I experience racism almost every day," student Riziki Kassim told WCAX News then.

Senior Zeinab Bulle and her friends say the N-word and slurs like "dirty African" were routine.

"It was really hard and it was kind of sad because people didn't accept us for who we are," Zeinab said.

Superintendent Jeanne Collins promised to take action, launching a plan to fight racism and promote diversity across the district. Making all students feel welcome was at its core.

"Now, big time a lot of things changed. Teachers trying to work things out, making students come together. When we enter the school, they welcome us, smile. They just, they're just there to help us now," Zeinab said.

Zeinab says classmates are getting better, too.

"Some did and some are the same, but some really did improve. They totally understand how it feels now," she said.

In the last year, multicultural activities have been added to the curriculum and teachers are now involved in ongoing training to help them handle issues around race.

"If somebody tells you, 'I was just called a name in the bathroom.' The response is not, 'Oh no you weren't, I can't believe that just happened,' but the response has to be, 'Tell me more, tell me about what happened.' And then we have processes in place to investigate what happened and follow up," Collins said.

But all is not perfect at BHS. Zeinab's younger brother, Omar, is a sophomore. He says he does not experience racism at school, but says he sees room for major progress.

"You're going to come in the lunchroom and you're going to know Asians, Nepal, Africans, black African-Americans, white, like it's all, that's how it is separated; there is hardly any diversity," Omar said.

Superintendent Collins says there's no quick fix to the problem, but that the school division is making strides.

"What we think is the biggest thing, we're taking the time to build the foundation and putting the pieces into place and with that we have made significant progress here," Collins said. "But to the student who says not enough, I say I still agree. It's still not enough."

Collins says an area where she has not made as much progress as she would like is with the recruitment and retention of a diverse faculty. She says personnel handling that effort changed midway through the year and slowed down the effort.

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