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Harassment Incident in Vermont School Soccer: MAYBE The Children Will Show Us the Way

October 15, 2021 Comments off

I have an op ed submission I titled “The Bullies Are Winning” that included a recent incident at a Vermont HS Women’s Soccer game between Hartford (VT) HS and Fair Haven as an example of how January 6 “insurrection” emboldened bullies in their public efforts of intimidation. As reported in detail in a recent local newspaper article, The incident involved taunting from the Fair Haven student section directed at particular members of the Hartford soccer team, taunts that were crude, misogynistic, and cruel… taunts that were so bad they led one of the players on the Hartford team left the field at which point the Hartford Coach pulled all of his players from the field and took them home.

The result of his action, as described in today’s headline article, was an outpouring of support from HS students in the school and across the state as Student Governments respond with resolutions forbidding the taunting of individual players in an effort to maintain a healthy environment at athletic events. This is very heartening, for it indicates that MAYBE students will be able to lead the way in anti-bullying efforts in the same way young black students in the South in the 1960s led the way in the civil rights movement. MAYBE the children can lead us out the spiral our country seems to be in when it comes to taking vaccines, wearing masks, respecting the rule of law, and being kind and courteous to each other. These “basic skills” are far more important than those measured by standardized achievement tests.

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One Vermont Employer Has No Problems Recruiting… and Higher Wages is Only Part of the Answer

August 1, 2021 Comments off

A Vermont Digger article by Fred Thys profiled Twincraft Skin Care, a thriving business headquartered outside of Burlington, Vermont, that has encountered no difficulty in hiring staff during the pandemic. How did they succeed in their recruitment where other businesses failed? Providing decent wages helped… but after reading the article there are other elements that were equally important. Here’s a list in the order that they appeared in the article:

  • The company has never laid anyone off… and it now has over 300 employees!
  • They scheduled the work with employees’ needs– not efficiency– front and center.
  • They recruited based on word-of mouth
  • They recruited by targeting businesses that were closed (a local bakery) or under-employing staff members (restaurants and retail)
  • The company is locally owned and has no intention of selling to an outsider, which lures folks who were laid off when a nationally owned enterprise closed
  • They recruited and supported immigrants by offering ESOL and floating holidays so that the different traditions could take time off
  • They provide child care for infants in their first six months
  • They provide a four-day work week as the default schedule
  • they provide access to a clinic that offers free medical services
  • They provide turkeys to employees at Thanksgiving
  • They offer to provide Christmas gifts for children
  • They offer $500 for each employee to make a donation to the charity or church of their choice
  • They understand that child care costs are the biggest obstacle potential employees face and actively supported Vermont’s legislative efforts to address that need.
  • They have extraordinary leadership

It is evident from reading the article that Twincraft is not motivated solely by profit. If it were it would focus on efficiency in its operations, ignore the needs of its employees in favor of increasing the bottom line, and would lobby for deregulation and lower taxes instead of increased stat4e funding for child care. Employees have a visceral sense that their employers care… and when one of their friends tells them of the favorable working conditions at a workplace AND the relatively higher wages it seems foolish to stay where they are. When the day comes that employers understand how to treat their workforce they will find that recruiting becomes MUCH easier.

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Vermont Hot Potato: Who Will Decide if State Funds Can Go to Religious Schools That Defy Anti-Discrimination Laws

May 10, 2021 Comments off

Our local paper featured a front page article today by Vermont Digger writer Lola Duffort that described the quandary the SCOTUS has put on Vermont’s longstanding voucher program. For decades— or perhaps centuries– Vermont has allowed local school boards in communities that lack a public school to pay tuition for children in their towns to attend any school they choose…. EXCEPT for religiously affiliated schools. In the past when this de facto voucher system has been challenged a clause in the State constitution supported school boards who did not want to fund such schools. But now, in the wake of the SCOTUS’ Espinoza decision, there is a legal question about WHO decides if a religiously affiliated school can receive State funds, and one case in particular is a good proxy for how this is going to play out. As Ms. Duffort writes:

That question rose to the surface recently when former Vermont education secretary Rebecca Holcombe tweeted out a screenshot taken from the handbook of Grace Christian School, a religious institution located in Bennington. The small K-12 school’s “Statement of Faith” compares homosexuality to incest and bestiality, and states that “rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.”

“All faculty, staff, parents, volunteers and students must uphold and promote the morals and lifestyle dictated in this Statement,” it continued.

Grace Christian also receives public dollars through the state’s child care subsidy program. “#vtpoli, just how much compelled support of state-funded discrimination is OK?” asked Holcombe, a longtime critic of the state’s voucher systems.

Unfortunately no one wants to make the decision about whether it is OK as the Agency for Education, the State School Board, Local School Boards, the Vermont Legislature, and the  Vermont Human Rights Commission are all trying to pass the ultimate decision to someone else— and there is no clear guidance on which of these agencies will tackle the question which is likely to end up in court no matter WHO decides and HOW they decide.

From this lawyer practicing without a license, it strikes me that the REAL problem is the Espinoza decision itself, which has been interpreted as a blanket repeal of Blaine Amendments that passed in just under 2/3 of the states in the late 1800s. So long as religious schools of any size or any denomination are eligible for receiving state funds we can expect legal battles as far as the eye can see. I await the day for a Madrassa or a cult-like religious school that uses marijuana as a sacrament to seek state funding now that the wall separating church and state is down. So long as mainline denominations are seeking funds for schools that offer, say, a single course in religion are seeking state funds I am certain it will be acceptable. But what will happen when a fanatical religious school or a cult-like religion seeks state funding? Who will say no? Stay tuned!

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