Dear SNSC Community,
SNSC has always been committed to building a community where everyone has opportunities and support to pursue their goals and aspirations; this is our mission on behalf of all individuals with disabilities and their families. A continuous string of terrifying events has brought back into sharp focus the fact that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) continue to be unsafe in our country.
Additionally, educational achievement gaps are closely tied to disability, race and poverty. Action is needed to address these gaps and make sure the nation’s aspirations to equal opportunity are realized. In Vermont, students of color and students with disabilities experience exclusionary discipline, seclusion, and restraints at rates two to three times than their neurotypical non-black peers. Restraints should never be used as a disciplinary strategy. Studies have demonstrated that these actions triple the likelihood of contact with the juvenile justice system. Studies from the Council of State Governments also found that lowering exclusionary discipline improves school climate, keeps students engaged in learning, and improves lifelong success. Positive behavior interventions and supports, non-punitive response protocols, restorative justice and associated professional development improves school climate and academic achievement for all students.
Our staff and board agree that it is essential to make a public statement against economic, education, health, and justice systems anchored in systemic racism. Choosing to remain silent supports an existing, inequitable power differential. Previously, we have focused our conversations within our staff and board community. As the impact of these racist systems becomes more visible to all of us, we realize that our conversations must find a wider audience. Those in our community who have disabilities and are also BIPOC face and endure compounded hardships because of the reality of intersectional oppression. And we recognize that this work is a lifelong endeavor, and that action must be taken within a community of support.
We are raising our collective voice to be one of many advocating for active work against the profound structural inequities in favor of white people in all aspects of our society. We stand in solidarity with the work of community organizations that are striving for the progression of economic, social, and political equality of all people in this nation.
Working against racism, ableism and oppression in all its forms requires our individual and collective energy and courage. This work on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color requires particular awareness and focus and there is much to be done. We are committed to this ongoing work. Thus we are working towards cultural competency and anti-racist practices throughout our organization by:
- Creating and adopting a formal, accessible Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement that will guide the thoughts, actions, and inclusive initiatives propelled by our organization.
- Presenting substantive learning opportunities and sessions on diversity, inclusion, and equity to provide information and resources internally, and within the communities we serve, especially within the education systems, law enforcement agencies, and Vermont and New Hampshire legislators.
- Training our hiring team on equitable practices to address and remove unconscious bias towards those with disabilities and Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
- Challenging systems and policies that create inequity, oppression and disparity through our platform as community leaders focused on children with disabilities and their families. We recognize the profoundly increased burden on children and adults who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and have disabilities.
With respect and gratitude to our Upper Valley Community,
Laura Perez Rose-Marie McCullough Jo-Anne Unruh
Executive Director Co-President Co-President
Allen Abendroth, Board
Alexis Alston, Board
Carmen Champney, Staff
Owen Daniel-McCarter, Staff
Paula Fernandes, Board
Nils Fredland, Staff
Sue Hagerman, Board
Vince Mennona, Board
Meg Seely, Board
Nicki Thrall, Staff
Barbara van Hoff, Board
Emma Woloshin, Staff