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Black Lives Matter Flag Raising at SBHS

Black Lives Matter Flag Raising at SBHS

Key Messages for Black Lives Matter Flag Raising at SBHS

Statement of Intent from the Students, Staff and Community Members on the Black Lives Matter Flag Raising Committee

South Burlington students, with the full support of the South Burlington School District, are raising the Black Lives Matter flag. The flag signifies our commitment to creating a just, equitable, and empathetic world. It is a symbol of inclusion, especially for our students of color.

Injustice and racism are an ongoing struggle in our nation and our South Burlington Community. This continues to traumatize and exclude traditionally marginalized groups. The Black Lives Matter movement affirms the value of Black Lives in response to the racism that infiltrates every institution in the United States.

Our purpose is to engage our school community in hopes that all will leave with a greater understanding of racial inequity, more specifically its impact throughout Vermont and our country as a whole. The flag will be a reminder that history, including Black history, is not just something of the past. History is constantly being made, and this flag and this movement are a part of it.

The raising of the Black Lives Matter flag is our kick-off to Black History Month. We intend for it to generate a courageous, community-wide conversation about racial inequity and recognize a month of celebration of the achievements of Black Americans and their contributions to our country.

Key Messages:

  • South Burlington High School students, with the full support of the South Burlington School District (including unanimous approval of the School Board), are raising the Black Lives Matter flag as a symbol of inclusion, especially for students of color.
  • This student-led initiative ties to the larger educational work of the school district including, but not limited to, (1) our Ends Policy and (2) staff work on equity and anti-bias education.
  • Similar to the larger work of the school district, students and members of the Black Lives Matter Flag Raising Committee believe raising the Black Lives Matter flag will inspire a greater understanding of racial inequity and steps we may each take to address that inequity.

Further Messages:

  • Not all in the local and wider community will agree with this decision.
  • We hope our local and wider community will take part in opportunities to engage in respectful, constructive and peaceful dialogues on race and privilege as part of the SBSD Community Series on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (year 3) and the student-led South Burlington Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Event (year 6).

FAQs: Raising the Black Lives Matter Flag at South Burlington High School

  1.  When will the Black Lives Matter flag be raised at South Burlington High School?

The flag will be raised on February 1, 2019, and will fly for the month of February.

February is recognized as Black History Month. The flag will then be raised each February in the future.

  1.  How was this decided?

In the spring of 2018, the SBHS Student Diversity Union (now Student Justice Union) made a proposal to the School Board who then unanimously passed a motion supporting the raising of the Black Lives Matter flag.

The SBHS Student Diversity Union put forth a proposal to the School Board on May 16, 2018, with a follow-up meeting on June 6, 2018. On June 6, 2018, the School Board unanimously passed a motion supporting the raising of the Black Lives Matter flag beginning in February 2019 and thereafter every February.

  1.  Will there be other activities connected to the Black Lives Matter Flag raising and Black History Month?

Yes, several educational events have been planned.

The SBHS Black Lives Matter Flag Raising Committee (comprised of students, staff and community members) has been preparing several educational events leading up to the flag raising ceremony including, but not limited to

  • Advisory activities designed to raise awareness about equity
  • Two assemblies preceding the flag raising for SBHS students and staff.
  1.  Is the Black Lives Matter Flag raising open to the public?

The educational events and the flag raising itself are designed for students and staff only.

  1.  Why Black Lives Matter? Don’t all lives matter?

All lives do matter; however, all lives can’t matter until Black lives do.

As the SDU noted in their proposal, “We endeavor to create an accepting, equitable, and empathetic environment at South Burlington High School. In raising the flag we do not attempt to undermine the value of each and every student, but we do act to affirm the value of South Burlington’s Black students.”

  1.  Isn’t Black Lives Matter an anti-police group that’s disrespectful to law enforcement?

Black Lives Matter is an internationally recognized network of more than 40 chapters focused on basic human rights and racial equity for people of color.

The founding of Black Lives Matter in 2013 (by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi) was in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a civilian, who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. It began as a social protest movement against “the disproportionate impact of state violence on Black Lives” (Black Lives Matter) and has since grown to become an influential force for equity and for the “deactivation of systemic racism” (Black Lives Matter Vermont). Black Lives Matter Vermont identifies as a peaceful, nonviolent movement.

  1.  How is this connected to education?

The work is connected to the District Ends policy as well as to other programs in our school district.

The work is connected to the District Ends policy, which includes the following goals for students before they graduate from high school: (1) Disposition for Lifelong Learning; (2) Personal Development and (3) Citizenship. Students engaged in planning, leading and participation in the events are enhancing skills named in the District’s Ends including, but not limited to expressing themselves creatively and effectively,” “respectfully advocating for self and others” and “supporting, participating, and/or initiating socially responsible actions to benefit the local and global community.”

The work is also connected to larger work in our school district including but not limited to culturally sustaining pedagogy and anti-bias education. The South Burlington School District, as part of the Vermont Agency of Education and public education nationwide, is committed to empowering every student and staff members in our schools to show up as their full selves and see themselves in our curriculum, in our classrooms, in our hallways, in all our school spaces and work.  

  1.  Shouldn’t schools keep out of politics?

Raising the Black Lives Matter flag is a civil rights issue.

Raising the Black Lives Matter flag recognizes the value of Black lives. The United States’ history includes slavery and denial of civil rights to Black citizens, and we continue to address the impact of system racism today. Our students, staff and families live in a global society, and issues impacting that society are part of education in our schools. Part of preparing to be a citizen of the world is recognizing where injustice and bias are present. We want classrooms to be places where students engage in dialogues on these difficult topics so that they may be better prepared to advocate for justice. Raising the Black Lives Matter flag brings these educational opportunities to the forefront.

Additional Resources

RETN Tape of May 16, 2018 School Board Meeting: https://www.retn.org/show/south-burlington-school-board-meeting-may-16-2018 (The Black Lives Matter Flag presentation by the Student Diversity Union begins at minute 26.26.)

RETN Tape of June 6, 2018 School Board Meeting: https://www.retn.org/show/south-burlington-school-board-meeting-june-6-2018 (The Black Lives Matter Flag additional brief presentation by the SDU and then the response by the School Board begins at minute 5.16.)