An apology, and a teachable moment for BBA

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In Bob Stannard's recent column, "Stand Up — Or Wish You Had" [Manchester Journal, May 5], he makes outstanding points about the importance of standing up to racism and intolerance in response to viewing a new locally produced documentary, "Divided By Diversity."

All too often, people stand by and watch rather than intervene. I was dismayed to see Burr and Burton Academy mentioned in this column. Mr. Stannard specifically cited video footage, which I had never seen before, of BBA students chanting racist remarks toward Mount St. Joseph's basketball team. In 2012, all five of their starting players were African-American.

At the time of this contest, I received one complaint from a spectator objecting to BBA students chanting, "USA!" — a chant our students had been doing all year long.

Today, I sat down with the filmmaker, Duane Carleton, to watch and discuss this documentary. Mr. Carleton identifies many instances of overtly racist behaviors endured by the young men of MSJ, including a chant of "KFC" at Burr and Burton Academy.

There is no defending these actions, which are inexcusable anywhere and an insult to the values of this school and, overwhelmingly, this community. Any student chanting such vitriol should have been ejected and held accountable for this disgraceful behavior. Instead, they graduated and moved on.

That year, I wrote a letter to the MSJ principal congratulating the school on their victory. They won the state championship, and they did so with pride and dignity. Now, I wish I had included an apology.

In no way do the students' actions represent the values of BBA, and I agree with Mr. Stannard: All too often, people stand by. We live in a state where I still see the Confederate flag on vehicles and hanging from houses. South Burlington's noble effort to abandon its mascot, The Rebels, has been met with anger by some, including threats of mayhem. As Mr. Stannard reminds us, we are a state with a proud and long history of rejecting racism and oppression in favor of freedom and tolerance.

I accept nothing less from the students at BBA.

Duane Carleton has done a great service in making "Divided by Diversity," and we will show it to the entire student body. We will take this as a teachable moment with the hope that this sort of behavior is never repeated by BBA students, nor any other students throughout the state.

But it probably will be repeated in some way, and when it is, I hope other students, parents, teachers and community leaders stand up and shut it down before it becomes an issue. I wish this had happened in 2012, and I apologize on behalf of Burr and Burton Academy.

Mark Tashjian is headmaster of Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester.

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