Former student settles complaint over alleged racist bullying

A Vermont Human Rights Commission complaint filed against Twin Valley School District alleged that the only Black student at Twin Valley Middle High School faced continued racist bullying, while school leadership failed to take action

A former Twin Valley student, who is Black, has settled a complaint with the district that alleges school officials didn't do enough to address racist bullying she faced at the district's middle and high schools, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Vermont, which is representing her.

In a 2021 complaint to the Vermont Human Rights Commission, the ACLU wrote that the student, referred to as "C.B.," was a 10th grader at Twin Valley Middle High School and its only Black student. The complaint alleged that Twin Valley students used racist slurs against C.B., directed the Nazi salute at her and threatened her with violence.

As a result of the alleged harassment, C.B. "did not participate in school sports, her grades declined, and she developed anxiety and depression," according to the ACLU. The student "was forced to transfer schools," the organization said, as the school "did nothing to protect C.B."

"School administrators have a responsibility to protect students' rights to an education free of discrimination, and we hope this case reminds schools of that responsibility," said Lia Ernst, legal director of the ACLU of Vermont, in a written statement.

A lawyer for Twin Valley School District did not respond to an email seeking comment. Twin Valley Middle High School is in Whitingham and is part of the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union.

A March 2023 settlement between Twin Valley and the federal government similarly found that Twin Valley did not sufficiently respond to racial harassment "that created a hostile environment for Black students."

As part of the federal settlement, the district agreed to administer schoolwide culture and climate assessments, and to provide professional development in harassment prevention for staff and students.

According to the ACLU, Twin Valley paid C.B. an "undisclosed sum" for damages and legal fees.

The settlement, according to its language, is not a "finding of discrimination" or a "determination of the merits of the complaint."

"Though the harms that I experienced can't be undone, I am relieved that Twin Valley is being held accountable and working to change the way it addresses racially motivated bullying and harassment," C.B. said in a written statement as part of the ACLU's press release.

"I hope that state policymakers and school officials will learn from my experience, so that other students do not have to face the same hostile environment that I did," she said.

This News item by Ethan Weinstein originally appeared in VtDigger and was republished in The Commons with permission.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates