Champlain Valley Union High School’s Racial Action Committee

Members of Champlain Valley Union High School’s Racial Action Committee stand beneath the Black Lives Matter flag in 2019. The flag will go up again on Friday.

The Champlain Valley School District has chosen a significant time on a significant day to raise the Black Lives Matter flag.

The flag is going up at every school in the Champlain Valley School District this Friday, June 19.

The district’s board made the decision on Tuesday.

June 19, known as Juneteenth, honors the day the news reached Texas that all previously enslaved people were free.

The news was read in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, more than two months after the end of the Civil War and almost three years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

The flags will be raised at 8:46 a.m. at Hinesburg Community School, Charlotte Central School, Allen Brook School, Williston Central School and Champlain Valley Union High School.

That time is significant because George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis on May 25 after a policeman kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

At Champlain Valley Union High School, Principal Adam Bunting will meet with a small group of students at 8 a.m.

“This is their third time raising the flag. It’s different there. They’re going to be talking with Adam about what this means,” said Superintendent Elaine Pinckney. “At 8:46 the more formal part of it will start.”

Students, teachers and board members will join in.

At Shelburne Community School, the flag raising has been organized by recently graduated eighth grader Emma Marden. She said the student rally will start by meeting at the Shelburne Town Green at 2 p.m. on Friday.

At 2:30 p.m. they will march to the school. The Black Lives Matter flag raising there will include at least three speakers – Marden, Principal Scott Sivo and a representative from the police department.

Rally participants will be encouraged to lie on the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

“I think it’s important to teach the people in our school why we’re raising the Black Lives Matter flag. It doesn’t make any sense if no one knows why we’re doing it,” Marden said.

Afterward, people can stay and hold signs, spreading messages of anti-racism and inclusion to passing motorists.

Marden, the daughter of CVSD board member Barbra Marden, said she experienced racism during her time at Shelburne Community School. For example, a girl that she thought she was her friend told another student she should wash her hands after they and Marden held hands as part of a classroom exercise.

It was more than a month before she heard from either a teacher or a counselor about the incident. She feels it should have been dealt with much sooner.

“Even though the apology was needed, it seemed like a script mainly written by the teacher,” Marden said. “It was one step but not a very big one.”

She doesn’t think she would have even heard about Ahmaud Arbery, the Georgia man who was shot while running, if she hadn’t been at home during quarantine.

“We need to talk more about racism around the world,” Marden.

The flags will stay up until Dec. 31, although Pinckney said the school board may decide to revisit this decision and talk about keeping them up.

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