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Complaints about a Nazi flag outside this Townshend home landed the matter before the Select Board recently, and it has since issued a statement against symbols of hate.

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TOWNSHEND — Following calls from the community to take a stand after a Nazi flag was spotted at a house on Route 30 near two local schools, the West River Education District will be issuing a statement against hate.

“We’ve seen a lot from other towns’ select boards, our Townshend Select Board just made a statement coming out of the most recent meeting,” School Board Chairman Al Claussen said Monday at the School Board meeting. “I think it would make the most sense for us to follow suit and do the same thing.”

The School Board received letters from the community requesting that the board make a statement against hate after a Nazi flag was spotted in a yard near Townshend Elementary School and Leland & Gray Union High School. The yard still has signs questioning the United States’ response to COVID-19 and other political matters.

Claussen said he would feel comfortable crafting a statement with fellow board members Mike Foley and Joe Winrich “to speak to this awful matter.”

The three board members, who live in Townshend, agreed to the plan.

When Claussen suggested the board could provide guidance, board member Ken McFadden of Newfane said he thinks the three board members tagged for the effort could handle it alone given that they have a sense of how the rest of the board feels on the subject.

“I would not reference the specific incident that occurred but make it more general, so that way, it covers all instances,” and avoids violating free speech or open politics, board member Dana West of Jamaica said.

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Board member Anne Connor of Jamaica said Townshend’s statement seems like a good model. It used the same language proposed by West Townshend resident Jenny Kessler and members of West River Valley Mutual Aid.

Claussen said he would be consulting Foley and Winrich via email, then sending the statement to the superintendent and others.

“I want to appreciate everyone who did write in a letter,” Claussen said. “It’s very, very important matter and I couldn’t agree more. We will do our best to address it.”

Juliette Carr, co-founder of West River Valley Mutual Aid, said the School Board’s leadership in setting the tone for the school community is “much appreciated.”

“We are glad that the school board, the town and the community has pulled together on this issue,” she said Tuesday. “We are also especially grateful to each neighbor who got involved in this request — signing your name, writing letters of support, speaking to your neighbors about why this matters, and joining the meetings — as well as the support of organizations including NAACP of Windham County, Brattleboro Area Jewish Community, Vermont Interfaith Action, Lost River Racial Justice, representatives from local anti-bias groups, clergy and school personnel. We are proud to be your neighbor.”

Superintendent Bill Anton said he’s “extremely supportive” of the School Board communicating a statement that says “hate does not have a place in our community.”

“As elected officials, I believe it is a powerful statement to their constituents, neighbors and students that they serve,” he said. “They are leading by example.”


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