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I’m taking a wonderful class offered by Peace University. Here’s a recent assignment, in which we thought about how the Earth Charter intersected with our everyday lives:

There are several schools in my city that are not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. To get from one end of the high school to the other, one sometimes has to go outside. And it some climates, that may not matter, but we often have below freezing weather in Vermont.

For the elementary and middle schools, the solution the city has adopted is to send students with disabilities to other schools that are ADA compliant. But there is only one public high school. It has ramps that are too steep, as well as buildings with no way to get from one floor to the next.

We now are instituting restorative practices districtwide, but up until very recently, students of color and students qualifying for special education services were suspended at a higher rate than white students and students without disabilities. Many decisions on educational services for students are based on whether it’s convenient to provide them. We don’t have enough para-professionals hired, so students who should have 1:1 help oftentimes don’t get the help they are by law supposed to get. And unless there is some oversight from the state, it will not happen.

In this political climate, where more emphasis is placed on the bottom line instead of what is best for students, the oversight is not happening.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that no person shall be denied a nationality. The majority of the students I teach are Nepali-speaking Bhutanese. And although this is not happening in my region, the fallout from what has happened in Bhutan has resulted in hundreds of people being resettled in Vermont because they have, in effect, no nationality. If these teens make decisions that pit them against the law for any reason, they could potentially be deported. Some of the cultures my students bring with them are in direct violation of U.S. law, and because these communities are separate from the mainstream, issues are not recognized, and so little is done to stop practices such as female genital mutilation, forced arranged marriages or polygamy.

There are also many hidden ways that people are discriminated against, ways that often are not in public view, such as sexual discrimination (#metoo movement), hiring and rental decisions and more. In the video, there were examples of inequality in racism (Muslim ban), war, marriage equality, environmental devastation and more. People are rising up and protesting.

In Vermont, people are very politically active. They march in protest. The city has decided to be listed as a sanctuary city, despite national threats to funding sources. The state is working on phosphorus and clean water issues despite the trend for deregulation at the national level. Our state long has been focused on issues of drug addiction and abuse. And we’re beginning to realize more fully the issues facing elders. And still, there is more to be done.

Inequalities disrupt peace because it’s difficult to find happiness when the state is not supporting equality for everyone. The issue I deal most directly with is poverty, which then leads to a host of other maladies. My students’ parents work in jobs with no sick leave, and so taking a day off of work could potentially put their income levels at risk, making it impossible to pay rent or get food. Drugs and alcohol potentially dull the pain of dealing with money issues or unresolved post-traumatic stress syndrome. Anger can lead to fights; loss of income can trigger thefts. And that could lead to deportation. And this level of unease spreads to the children, raising their defenses, making it less likely that they will do well in school.

So can there be peace with no justice? My answer is a resounding “no”. The ripple effect makes life difficult for everyone surrounding the person facing difficulties. And then we all pay the price.

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