NewsLocal News


Burlington Area School District releases plan to fix racial environment

Posted at 10:14 PM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-10 23:15:36-04

BURLINGTON — The Burlington Area School District released a new plan to promote equity after the state called it a "racially hostile environment" last month.

Following its investigation of a discrimination complaint, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction ordered the district to come up with a plan in 30 days.

Last week, the district said it received another discrimination complaint and needs to investigate it.

"Despite whatever they've done, you still have all of these children of color experiencing horrible instances of racism right on their watch," Darnisha Garbade said.

"They are being told to 'come pick my cotton' amongst many other just terrible, terrible things," Garbade added.

Garbade leads the Burlington Coalition for Dismantling Racism. She filed a complaint with DPI back in March on behalf of her daughter. DPI then ordered the district to come up with a plan.

The district's new plan outlines steps for making sure discipline is non-discriminatory, creating an inclusive environment, looking at how discrimination complaints are reported, and making sure policies are in compliance with Wisconsin Administrative Code.

Burlington's plan also includes training staff, improving curriculums, and establishing a director of equity. The district has worked with a consulting group, DPI and the National Equity Project. Last November, the district adopted an anti-racism policy.

"The work ahead has the potential not only to improve the culture within Burlington, but also to bring justice to Black and Brown students across the state," said school board president Peter Turke in a meeting Monday night.

Poster image (73).jpg

Garbade said she doesn't believe the plan is enough.

"The district really failed in providing a corrective action plan that will keep students of color safe," Garbade said.

Garbade said the Coalition made suggestions to the plan, including an anti-racism curriculum, a more in-depth anti-racism policy, diversifying staff, providing counselors for students who experience racism, and hiring a person of color as the equity director. She said the Coalition was not included in helping the administrators write the plan.

The school board said they are planning to collaborate with the Coalition in implementing the plan going forward.

"With DPI calling them a 'racially hostile environment' in the midst of them doing all these things already, you'd think they would be more interested in, 'OK, what do we need to do in taking a posture of learning and really examining, OK, we're clearly not doing something right here,'" Garbade said.

A spokesperson for DPI said it will either approve or make suggestions to Burlington's plan. Superintendent Steve Plank said he was told that would take about one or two weeks.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip