A Milton mother says her daughter was suspended from school after another student addressed her daughter using a racial slur, and now organizers with Black Lives Matter are calling for Milton Superintendent Ann Bradshaw to resign.
In a live broadcast on community access television hosted by Black Lives Matter VT in Burlington Tuesday, Maria Twitty said her daughter approached a teacher after another student made an overtly racist comment using the “N-word.”
“When she went to go seek out for help, she didn’t get the help she was looking for,” Twitty said. “Instead, an adult faculty member yelled at her in her face, and after she yelled at her she made a statement to her saying ‘You’re just making matters worse. Go to your class.’”
Twitty said that after her 12-year-old daughter Mikhayla told her what happened, she got a call from the school’s principal.
“Not even knowing what the whole story was besides what my daughter expressed to me, [the] principal gives me a call and tells me my daughter had to take a day off from school,” Twitty said, noting that the principal wouldn’t give an explanation when Twitty asked for one.
“So I replied back by saying ‘Wait a minute, you’re asking my daughter to stay [home] from school, you’re suspending my daughter for being called the N-word?’” Twitty said. “That’s when I got hung up on.”
Omega Jade, a friend of Twitty, said the incident is part of a pattern in Milton schools of racist behavior being tolerated and students of color being disciplined when they call attention to racism.
“This needs to stop. It’s not an isolated incident,” Jade said. “Obviously, people are coming in from the community sharing their own version of their own story of having to go through this themselves. We need to come to a solution, we need to be willing to have a dialogue so this doesn’t happen. Any parent of color right now is feeling this. I have kids … that have to endure this.”
Ebony Nyoni, who hosted the community access television discussion and represents Black Lives Matter VT, said she was at a meeting last week with Superintendent Ann Bradshaw and parents of color in the district who shared their stories of racism in schools.
“I was totally shocked that these instances were occurring and that the superintendent was sitting there, receiving the stories, and still in a state of denial, still not producing a solution, and still not really affirming the young women who were there,” Nyoni said. “We all kind of sat there after the stories were being told, and kind of looked at the superintendent for almost leadership, okay, so ‘What next?’ And that was not provided to us.”
As a result, Nyoni said, Black Lives Matter VT is calling for Bradshaw’s resignation.
“We don’t feel like she’s qualified or capable to handle this scenario,” she said.
Superintendent Ann Bradshaw refused an interview request but provided the following emailed statement:
We are not able to respond to questions or provide any information regarding the concerns and reports. Federal and state laws prevent the district from confirming, denying or commenting on any allegation or incident that involves students. The Milton Town School Board of Trustees has comprehensive policies and procedures that comply with state and federal laws regarding harassment, bullying and hazing. The School Board is fully committed to enforcing these policies and to providing an educational environment free from unlawful harassment. There are procedures in place for any person who believes that the polices were not followed.
Milton High School’s official policy manual explicitly bans race-based harassment “that has the purpose of effect of objectively and substantially undermining and detracting from or interfering with a student’s educational performance or access to school resources,” and it also explicitly bans retaliation against students who come forward to report harassment, hazing or bullying. Retaliation, according to the policy, can include giving a student a suspension for reporting racist harassment.
Sending a student home for reporting to a teacher that another student made a racist remark would be a direct violation of those policies, but Milton school officials have so far refused to publicly comment on their handling of the incident.
In comments to VTDigger last week, Bradshaw said “I know that our culture is in need of improvement” and added that “we may be able to get some support from Black Lives Matter to work on pieces of that.”
Twitty’s daughter Mikhayla was quiet and subdued throughout the television appearance, and when Nyoni asked her what message she would like to send to the Milton school district, she called on officials “not to hide this. To let it be known that there are people that are racist at the school and just try to change it.”
Twitty said Mikhayla went to school Monday with strong support from her friends, but felt uncomfortable enough that she didn’t go back Tuesday.
Black Lives Matter VT is calling on members of the community to send letters to school officials, the Vermont Human Rights Commission and others demanding that the school district confront racism.