Burlington Area School District adopts new policies for fighting racism amid tension, protests

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BURLINGTON, Wis. (CBS 58) - Protesters took to the street in Burlington Monday, Nov. 30, as racial tensions there grow.

The Burlington Coalition For Dismantling Racism wants the Burlington Area School District to take a tougher stance on racial injustice.

“We cannot be silent,” said BCDR member Amy Krueger during a rally Monday.

“We definitely need to see the district adopt an actual anti-racism policy to keep our children safe,” said Darnisha Garbade, BCDR president.

Garbade says students of color are routinely discriminated against, and the district isn’t doing anything to stop it.

They are pushing the district to do more, but are meeting resistance.

“There are people here that just don’t want to change, they stand to benefit from the system being just as it is and they don’t care about our children,” said Garbade.

“We all have a part to play to end racism,” said Diane Wood during a school board meeting Monday.

The board met and adopted a new policy handbook for the district.  In it, new guidelines for fighting racism in the district.

“In order for students to learn, they need to be able to come to school and feel safe and accepted for who they are,” said Wood.

“I want to thank the coalition for bringing this to our attention back in February, back before the entire world was focused on equity,” said board member Peter Turke.

But the coalition doesn’t think it goes far enough.  They have a list of demands:

  • Providing a safe learning environment for student of color
  • Publicly denouncing every racist incident
  • Collaborating with BCDR on an antiracism policy and curriculum
  • Imposing stricter discipline for racist incidents

“The current policy that the district has that they’re calling an anti-racism policy, it’s really a general bullying policy,” said Garbade.

She says, in order for this to work, they have to be a part of the process.  “It’s important that we are included,” said Garbade.

The board pointed out Monday that this isn’t over, and Monday night’s vote was just the first step.

“Just because we’re accomplishing this tonight doesn’t mean there isn’t more work to be done,” said board member Taylor Wishau.

“We are listening, and we’re reading the emails, and I’m looking forward to making a positive out of this,” said Turke.

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