by: Dana Casullo
Rutland, VT — The Rutland County branch of the NAACP is asking high schoolers to reflect on how racism is perpetuated in society with their Black History Month contest. The contest is open to all Vermont high school students in grades 9 through 12 in Rutland, Bennington, and Addison Counties.
“This is an opportunity for people to recognize some of those places where systemic racism exists and continues and allows students to push against those and learn more about them.” Alana Hart, the third Vice President of the Rutland Branch NAACP says students can choose from the following laws or policies: divisive concepts, zero tolerance, qualified immunity, or voting law recently passed in Georgia.
“Qualified immunity is one that comes up a lot and has been in conversation a lot nationwide, so we made sure to include that.” Harte adds that systemic racism is a topic not talked about enough in schools. “One thing is that school leaders, district leaders, and even teachers could spend a lot more time thinking about how to foster courageous conversation and keep students in a place where they can feel safe, learn something new and express something.”
Addie Lentzner, a senior at Arlington Memorial High School is also a co-founder of the Vermont Student Anti-Racism Network, a student-led group that advocates for racial equity and justice in Vermont schools. “School is kind of the key to changing society and so if we want to promote anti-racism in society and change the way that society is we have to start with education,” said Lentzner.
Lentzner says she has witnessed racism happen in school. “I mean we were just talking in our group the other day about how there are three students from different places in the state who have all had a racist incident in school happen in the past month, and how it’s not addressed well in our schools.”
Harte says systemic racism is a topic that needs to be discussed all year long, not just in February. A prize of $500 will be awarded for the winning submission in each category and submissions must be sent in by March 1.