Funny thing. A couple weeks ago Jay Nichols, head of the Vermont Principals Association, didn’t seem terribly concerned about reports of racist language at a Winooski/Enosburg high school soccer game. Nichols said the VPA might investigate if it received information about such an incident, but for now the Enosburg district was handling it. He gave no indication that the VPA would take an active role.
Since then, we’ve heard of at least two other incidents of hate speech at high school games.
And now, he’s announced a list of (bland and unconvincing) actions in response to the incidents. In doing so, he said “We have plenty of racism and sexism and stuff like that happen every single day.”
Two things. First, “stuff like that”? Really?
Second, if this “stuff” happens every single day, why in Hell didn’t the VPA have a process before now?
That statement is bad enough. But when you actually read the list of actions, it’s clear that this is nothing more than a beleaguered organization trying to cover its ass while actually doing as little as possible.
For starters, the VPA is not stepping into an investigative role, despite what you might have inferred from the VTDigger article entitled “Vermont principals outline new procedures to report, investigate abuse during sporting events.”
What it’s doing is setting up “a third party investigation option for schools/districts.”
It’s the word “option” that shows what the VPA is up to: Enacting a minimum of actual change and camouflaging that fact with an aggressive cloud of newspeak. I assume that if an investigation is conducted, it’ll be up to the schools to decide how to handle the results.
But wait, they’re also setting up “an open log on its website” for people to report racist or sexist behavior or speech. The log will be nothing more than a passive aggregator, as the VPA makes clear: “this log is to identify any trends of concern and all specific incidents should be reported locally for local investigation as the first and most important step.”
In other words, the VPA is absolutely not changing its policy of leaving this up to the schools. Pontius Pilate would be proud.
Otherwise, the “actions” are all yack and no shack.
The VPA has written a lengthy Statement to be read aloud before every school-sponsored event. It’s basically a series of stern finger-wags that, I’m sure, will be ignored by those in attendance. Recite anything often enough, it loses all its impact.
Next, there’s an oddly-phrased paragraph about implicit bias training: “The timeline for the expectation for all officials… to participate in implicit bias training on an annual basis has been moved up to this winter sports season to match the expectation of all coaches.”
I think that means the usual implicit bias training has been accelerated this one time. Oh, sorry, the “expectation” of implicit bias training. It’s not a requirement.
Also, a VPA committee is working on “additional policy language” regarding expectations for what officials, coaches and administrators do in response to incidents.
Again, “expectations” means no enforcement.
The VPA is also offering “professional learning courses” for athletic directors on “moving from awareness to action in regards to systemic racism and structural bias.” (Italics theirs)
“Offering.” Not “requiring.”
Finally, the VPA is working with other “stakeholders” (by which they mean other administrators and officials) with the aim of “continuous improvement on this issue going forward.”
To be fair, this list could do some good — but only if the VPA, the schools, athletic directors and coaches are truly on board. Otherwise, it’s eyewash.
Back in the real world, there was a second Winooski/Enosburg soccer game scheduled for Monday 10/18; it was canceled for unknown reasons, although I could hazard a guess.
Oh, and that school district “investigation” of the original incident? Officials of the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union announced this week that they’d found no evidence of racist remarks by Enosburg players or fans. Of course, they only interviewed their own people.
This whole mess shows exactly why there needs to be government oversight here. The VPA is a voluntary organization made up of the very people it’s expected to regulate. If racism and sexism and “stuff” is happening every day, then it needs to be policed by a body with more authority and independence than the VPA.