Racial Justice Protest April 30, 2021

Navigating CVU’s reporting system

By Bevan Roberts-Williams

HINESBURG, VT – Are students during the 21-22 CVU High School being ignored when reporting racism themselves or on behalf of other students? Are complaints being followed through? Is action being taken on these reports? These are the questions CVU students have following concerns regarding the reporting system.

New rules and regulations were put into place at the start of the 22-23 school year in response to CVU events including the racial justice protest. This was a school wide walkout that students did in response to national racial reckoning and the Black Lives Matter movement in April of 2021.

The new regulations include online reports, surveys, and more. Information on the reporting system can be found online on the CVU website, detailing how the process works. “…The House Director will give you a copy of the CVU BHH [bullying, harassment, hazing) procedures and go over it with you, making sure you understand the process. You will be asked to share your perspective on what happened. After an investigation, the House Director(s) and/or Title IX Coordinator will make a determination as to whether there is a violation of the BHH policy.  A record will be made of the complaint and outcome (due to confidentiality, you will not be told of consequences for others involved).”  (CVU Handbook)

Even though these systems are in place, students are voicing how they do not feel heard, “A teacher told me that [student name] is allowed to say slurs, and CVU can’t retaliate,” says a CVU senior, 17, who has chosen to stay anonymous. When asked how this made them feel, they responded, “Honestly, I was expecting it. I have never had great luck at CVU with reporting situations.” Students at CVU simply want to see results and feel like they will be protected in the school environment.

The reporting system is something that neither students or faculty feel is transparent enough. “What we know is very vague,” says a teacher at CVU who has requested to stay anonymous. When asked if they think reports are being dealt with, they say, “I think it’s a combination of both. There have been cases where the school has done nothing; I’ve heard ‘boys will be boys’ and whatnot, and it’s bullshit.” 

Faculty members at CVU are Mandatory Reporters for any bullying, discrimination, or hazing they see in the building. This means that…..  Teachers show that they are advocates for CVU students by reporting these acts to CVU. The strict confidentiality means that teachers nor students get to know the outcome of the report or if there was any action taken. “…But everything is confidential, so there are no specifics. I know it’s frustrating, it’s frustrating for me, I can’t imagine how frustrating it is for students of color,” says an anonymous teacher. “ As teachers and students, we don’t know many details that go into the investigations. I know SJA is pushing CVU to give us more information about the process. I think that if there is action and consequences for the reported situation, we should know the outcome of the investigation. I know the school is working hard to combat this.” Knowing that the adults in the building care about CVU’s students of color matters most for both faculty and students, but the system as it exists now does not reassure people that change is actually taking place.

After an interview with the principal of CVU, Adam Bunting, he opened up about his own struggles and experiences with the reporting system. “I think one challenge of [dealing with] bullying, harassment, and hazing is that it feels so formal.” With the private investigation, the steps the school must follow (such as making sure this doesn’t create more drama, making sure students respect the confidentiality agreement within the report, etc) he recognizes this issue and feels for the students, “even if you know there’s been an investigation and you know there’s been consequences, you don’t necessarily feel better about it, and that’s something we’re really working on as a school based on feedback.”

As for the action taken among the system after complaints, there has indeed been a significant improvement on the faculty side. “I think in the past there has been so much focus on the consequences on the person who inflicted the harm, but often what happens is the person who’s received the harm doesn’t get to experience that repair,” says Bunting. In the past year, faculty members have worked hard in figuring out how to achieve that feeling of safety for the student, “So let’s say you had a complaint that was verified against someone else, and you’re like ‘when I see that person in the hallway or in class, it’s so uncomfortable’ we’re taking that person out of your class and mapping this person’s progress through the hallways so you don’t see them.” 

The improvement within the system is definitely on the forefront of the minds of administrators, but it is going to be a process. Students should know that complaints are absolutely being taken into consideration, and although some students have felt unjustified in the past, there has been a lot of growth since then. We are looking forward to seeing how improvements and changes are made throughout the rest of the 23’ school year.