Teacher on leaving Rutland High School: ‘I have been accused of indoctrination of students’

This commentary is by Jennie Gartner, the founder of Rutland Forward, and a former social studies teacher at Rutland High School.

In October 2020, I resigned my position as a social studies teacher at Rutland High School, effective at the end of this school year. As a teacher, and adviser for the Gay Straight Alliance, Model UN, and New Neighbors student organizations, my primary role has been as an advocate for my students.

I chose to leave after 16 years because the lack of leadership in our school district on issues of local, state and global importance inhibited my ability to educate and advocate for my students in a meaningful and candid way.

In its district mission statement, Rutland City Public Schools says it “cultivates a passionate, diverse and resilient community of critical thinkers who learn with purpose, create innovative and responsible solutions, and lead lives of integrity.”

Through my 16 years in the district, this has been my goal.

As a teacher and adviser, I have encouraged engagement in the community as a way to make our world, and especially my hometown of Rutland, a better place. I have always tried to stand for equity, honesty and justice, and have encouraged my students to do the same.

And let me be clear: These ideas are not the purview of any one political party or particular ideology.

I have attempted to model for my students a life lived by the words of author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, who writes: “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

There has been speculation as to why I am leaving Rutland High, speculation that ranges from inanity to slander. I have been accused, in public, of indoctrination of students. I, and some of my friends and colleagues, have been subject to poisonous lies and character attacks in public meetings, in the media, and in public forums online.

It is not lost on me, nor on my current and former students, that these lies are told about me and my colleagues in public, and yet there is no public apology or even demand for accountability by the people who make these accusations, or by the leaders in our school district and the community who continue to let these lies go unchecked.

I constantly hear from teenagers who bemoan that the school environment as dictated by leadership will not permit them to discuss anything of importance in the real world, because these topics are deemed “too controversial” by the people in charge. The lack of opportunity for honest conversation is taking its toll on our students, the school district, and our community.

We are all witnessing firsthand the fear and vitriol that fills the vacuum when people in positions of leadership fail to encourage critical thought, meaningful conversation, and accountability.

I will not apologize for fostering an educational environment that encourages students to think critically and question the world as they know it because that is actually the point of education.

And so I return to the district’s mission statement. It is obvious to many of us that Rutland City Public Schools will not “cultivate a passionate, diverse and resilient community of critical thinkers” if we do not give our students the freedom to discover what they are passionate about;

If we do not encourage them to consider points of view that are divergent from their own or from those of the adults in their lives;

If we are not allowed to teach them how to think critically about important topics that may at times be uncomfortable to think about.

Resilience cannot be achieved if we shield our young people from learning about and engaging with the world that is outside their immediate view.

And so I choose to leave Rutland City Public Schools, a place where I have spent the majority of my life as both a student and as an educator.

I choose to invest my time and energy where I will not be a focal point of people’s anxiety about a changing world and where they fit into it, a place where leadership encourages critical thought, civic engagement, and honest, meaningful conversations.

And lastly, to those who say they are “not racist” and who believe that “racism is not an issue in our community:”

There are school districts, towns and cities all over Vermont who are meeting this 21st-century moment with open minds, open dialogue and open hearts. Their leaders are innovative thinkers, who embrace diverse populations, and have inclusive visions for their schools, workplaces and communities as a whole.

These places do not hold on to painful legacies of the past as a futile means to stop the world from changing; their residents work together to build an inclusive future that embraces differences as strengths. And these Vermont communities are growing, both in terms of population and opportunity for their residents.

I know which kind of community my friends, colleagues and I are working for Rutland to be. It’s time for Rutland City Public School’s leadership, and the leaders of our city, to act in the best interest for our students, our residents, and our community’s future.


Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

17 thoughts on “Teacher on leaving Rutland High School: ‘I have been accused of indoctrination of students’

  1. Well, Jennie, I suppose firstly you should feel fortunate that you were given the option to resign at all. You were offered far more latitude to express your political opinions than former Principal Tiffany Riley, who was summarily fired from Windsor High School for expressing an extremely polite counter-opinion regarding BLM that did not comport with the school board’s unwritten “no dissent” policy on far-left political groups.

    Surprisingly, even when you attempted to pack the school board with members that agreed with your political beliefs, you were still not fired.

    Then, when things didn’t go your way, you played the victim and walked off in a rather childish huff. But still, in a remarkable display of neutrality, your commentary is published verbatim in one of Vermont’s only Conservative online newspapers, TNR.

    By all accounts, you ought to feel quite lucky. You have been allowed to express your political opinions not only in public, but also to your students in the classroom. Rest assured, you have been heard quite clearly at this point – ad nauseum, in fact.

    Thankfully in America, we are still generally permitted to engage in public discourse. And the people of Rutland have also expressed their opinion – that you’re chock-full of bunkum.

  2. TNR not a very good place to hone ones bs artist skills. Claiming to be allegedly accused of trying to indoctrinate students when you have been trying to indoctrinate students in the vilest of abject evil a bit rich.

    But kindly stay away from our youth. If you wish to continue your career a sabbatical of soulsearching is recommended or try Adult Learning VT will need plenty of English teachers to help the newly illegal flooding into our states.

    Perhaps you will return as a cautionary tale and textbook example of how not to teach and help others realize our children are precious and we don’t want them to lose their way via indoctination camps which our schools have become.

    Please spare your tears and enjoy your retirement – or move to a Communist dictatorship and offer your ‘skillset’ where it would be more appreciated.

    Hope the irony of conservative TNR being the only operational comment section for a news site in the state of VT after all the rest have censored free speach out of existance is not missed in the VSSR with its oh-so boring one-size-fit-all media. Or – check out Green Mountain Daily started in part by John Odum illustrious mayor of Communist held-Montpelier VT who chooses to post his propaganda here lol – tho you could likely post your missive there – no post has been made since Jan and hoping everyone is alright. Or try TheVPO – pretty sure he’d love to allow you to wallow on your misery over there and could speak a bit more freely in either as long as you tow their farleft line.

    Point being were the MarxistDemocrat Party to lead our country into full-blown Communism – using CRT – and as TNR status proves there’s no place left to go much lol

  3. Lots of motherhood and apple pie in that letter, but she failed to say what she is teaching that others don’t like. And I bet the others are normal people who search for facts, before forming an opinion.

  4. Well now , don’t have another person with their feelings hurt. The job of our teachers is to teach fact, not to interject opinion, thus the name teacher, not influencer. The whole teachers union cabal has made it their goal to shape young minds in the way they see fit, not to teach facts and let the children and their parents decide based on their situation.
    How would you like it Ms. Gartner if you had a child in the school system and they were being taught and influenced on things that did not fit your moral judgement?
    The one thing i will give you is a courage to stand up to your convictions. I would also like to point out that if you lived in a such a place that the people you idolize were running you would not be allowed to do so.
    I would also like to point out that there is a huge difference between being intelligent and what people are being called as educated.
    In our current form of education is is teaching what someone else wrote and believing it to be true, regardless of whether or not that is actually factually based.
    I would encourage you miss Gartner to please move to one of these socialist utopias on which you sold such high regard, and please take Bernie Sanders and as many other socialists as you can with you. We could even start a go fund me page to help with expense as a socialist we could never expect any of you to actually pay for anything on your own.
    In closing i would like to say i am proud to live in the best country in the world, although it has many flaws, those of us that work and raise children try to make it better everyday. God bless America, whichever god you may choose to worship, as many men and women have fought and died for your ability to do so..

  5. Thanks for leaving – you obviously lack the courage of your convictions, which isn’t surprising because they fall short in numerous ways.

  6. Live your life by Kendi???? And it’s not indoctrination?

    I think we could do a bit better than Kendi as a roll model and mentor. Hell, if you are gonna go that route just come out and pledge your allegiance to Marx, a genius in his own mind.

    Kendi and equity, a recipe for misery. There are much better ways.

    • “If the book has a core thesis, it is that this war admits of no neutral parties and no ceasefires. For Kendi, “there is no such thing as a not-racist idea,” only “racist ideas and antiracist ideas.” His Manichaean outlook extends to policy. “Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity,” Kendi proclaims, defining the former as racist policies and the latter as antiracist ones.”
      – Coleman Hughes


  7. What’s being described here is the failure of what the schooling establishment intends to DO TO kids. Obstruction coming from bureaucratic leadership fumbling, lack of organizational zeal/solidarity from those in the trenches and knots of vociferous unenlightened dissatisfied parents. What educator dedicated to our public school system wouldn’t be discouraged…even unto resignation. Does this suggest a different paradigm might be called for? Schooling may not be “education”…education may be what parents DO WITH their kids…the driver for education may be learning rather than teaching and the schooling enterprise. If teachers with “courses” were unfettered by the schooling monolith they could make their services available to families trying to educate their kids. Perhaps resignation will turn out to be a release from bondage…the indenture will be broken. Families will want to hear what you have to offer. They may want to hire you and other freed teachers as venders. Teachers have skills…unleash them.

  8. We all know there has been, and is, racism in America, but that doesn’t mean all (white) Americans are racist, no matter what Dr. Ibram X. Kendi or anyone else says. It doesn’t even mean the majority of (white) Americans are, despite that we’re told that the whole system represents a power dynamic. It doesn’t mean good people everywhere aren’t working to ensure that everyone has an fair shake.

    Show me a country in the world that isn’t about power dynamics. The point of our country was to keep power dynamics in check; the point of CRT is to say we want that power. It’s not about dialogue over power: CRT deliberately throws out reason, which it deems as just another white trick, so where do we dialog when one side says we’re right and you just shut up? It’s not the anti-CRT people saying this.

    Teaching what CRT is, is perfectly reasonable, but indoctrinating with CRT is not reasonable or fair to our children.

    What do you call a theory that, like CRT, refuses to accept any criticism whatsoever and accuses all such criticism as proving the theory of unconscious systemic racism? One might call it enlightened perception, but many of us call it solipsism that prefers subjective narratives over best tries at reasoning things out through thoughtful consideration and an honest attempt at fairness and understanding. No go: you white folk are just trying to trick the rest of us.

    CRT has valuable points. It unfortunately disintegrates into unreason and into blanket characterizations of groups into unshakable and inescapable categories.

    “I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” So says Kendi. Whose truth? Yours? Mine? Whose justice? Whose definition of human being? We can’t argue about this, can we? Because you already tell us that you’re throwing out reason and dialog so no, you’re not for “truth,” you’re only for your truth, and you’re not for “justice,” but only the version that CRT supplies. We can’t argue about this: the doctrine doesn’t allow it.

    I’m all for looking at our past and for rooting out police brutality against POC. I’m also for getting drugs out of our inner cities, which is a subject BLM is curiously quiet about despite that this kills far more POC than police do. But I’m absolutely against ramming doctrinaire rubbish down our children’s throats. Answer critics with reasoned responses instead of saying that the criticism doesn’t matter because it’s a product of whatever we tell you. That’s the coward’s way of dialog, but it isn’t even dialog; it’s just plain asserting that we’re right and you’re wrong so shut up.

  9. My thoughts exactly, Jay. A lot of concepts and assumptions-stated-as-fact here. Very little evidence or even anecdotes to illustrate what concerns her. I would actually like to hear some examples from her so that we might move toward a real dialogue. There seem to be a lot of unhappy educators on all sides of the political divide.

    • Don’t hold breath Ms Frenier – they talk in circles, prevaricate, equivocate and use own code for a reason – it’s called obfucation. They cannot speak plainly bc would out selves as a natural enemy to conservative thought and ideals. Ye shall know them by their masks lol

  10. I wasn’t familiar with your story so I went and looked you up. I found that you were attempting to strong arm the school to change the mascot.

    ““There’s a teacher at the high school that basically said that she has people who can finance and run campaigns against all of those who do not vote in favor of the mascot in the name change,” he said. Cavacas was referring to a Facebook post made by teacher and city resident Jennie Gartner on Sept. 9 in which she puts out a call for people to run for the School Board and Board of Alderman.”

    Then I happened to find your twitter account where I saw that you happily voted for Biden:

    “I voted for @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris because I want to live in America. Not a red or blue one, but a country where we care for each other and know we are all better off because we do. They make me feel like that is possible again.”

    After seeing those and reading above I have only a few things to say:
    1: We don’t want you teaching equity. We want you teaching equality.
    2: How is your Biden working out for you, because it sucks for the rest of us.
    3: You aren’t supposed to vote how you feel, you are supposed to vote with what you think.
    3: Good luck getting another job, hope it isn’t teaching students to vote with their feelings.

  11. With all due respect, Ms. Gartner, your sentiments can be assigned to anyone’s point of view. And you and your students are entitled to them, whatever they are.

    I agree, public school ‘leadership’ is in question. But, I suspect, not for the reasons you reference.

    Case in point: Where is your leadership? The less than subtle, but nonetheless unstated implication in your missive, that there are “schools, workplaces and communities as a whole” that “do not hold on to painful legacies of the past as a futile means to stop the world from changing”, demonstrates a double standard. What ‘legacies of the past’ are you referring to? Who “means to stop the world from changing”? Are these the folks who happen to disagree with your vision of a changing world? Are they not entitled to their points of view too?

    That you know which kind of community your friends and colleagues are working for Rutland to be is fine. But do you and your friends and colleagues have the right to impose that vision on those who disagree with you? If you and your school district demonstrated the leadership you cherish, you would support School Choice Tuitioning and allow parents, their children, and educators such as yourself, to support the education programs they believe best meet their needs, creating a free marketplace with the educational and economic democracy we all desire.

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