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Data: Vermont has one of the lowest bullying rates


By Carolyn Sistrand

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    VERMONT (WPTZ) — A recent increase in racism and bullying in school sports across Vermont has districts and even the state taking a step back to look at how they can better eliminate hate in schools. These incidents aren’t just happening between students either, but from spectators at games as well.

“To think that we’re immune from that and that we’re immune from that in interscholastic competitions that would be silly. We’re not,” Jay Nichols, executive director of the Vermont Principal’s Association, said.

Data gathered by WalletHub found that Vermont ranks the second best state for a lack of bullying, only behind neighboring Massachusetts.

The VPA said despite the data, an aggressive approach is necessary especially after recent incidents during high school games. Winooski and Burlington high schools reported race-related incidents within weeks of each other.

“[The data] It’s something to be celebrated and there’s still a lot more work to go,” Nichols said.

Currently, VPA has a committee re-evaluating race and bullying policies in place to try and make them stronger. They’re also brainstorming what more they can do and areas the association can improve on.

“We can end their season. If there is a player that is constantly getting in trouble for certain things we can stop that player from playing. We can host events with no fans there,” Nichols said. “We’re also looking at some announcements that are made at games, some that are already being done at some schools but mandating those in terms of behavior that won’t be tolerated and we’re also looking at training officials and coaches with anti-bias training.”

The issue has reached the statehouse. Governor Phil Scott said in his weekly press conference Tuesday that the Agency of Education and VPA, alongside his administration, need to work together and take purposeful action.

“I think we need to come up with a uniform response to this,” Gov. Scott, (R), said. “We can’t tolerate this. This isn’t something that kids should be subjected to and we should stop it in its tracks when it happens.”

VPA wants students to continues reporting any bullying or racism they may encounter. Athletes should always report directly to the game officials and their own coaches.

“There’s no way in 2021 any kid should have to deal with being harassed or bullied or treated badly because of their race or their gender or anything else,” Nichols said. “We should be past that as a society.”

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