January 23, 2019

Supreme Court will hear South Burlington ‘Rebels’ suit

By Cory Dawson

For VTDigger

The South Burlington School District and town residents who favor retaining the town high school’s controversial “Rebels” mascot will have an opportunity to take their respective cases to the state Supreme Court.

At issue in the case is not the fate of the mascot itself — the high school sports teams now call themselves the Wolves — but whether the school board had the right to deny a petition by citizens to put the matter directly to voters.

Citizens who supported retaining the Rebels mascot circulated a petition last year requesting that the school board put the matter to South Burlington voters. Petitioners collected the signatures of 5 percent of registered voters in South Burlington. The school board denied the petition.

In a ruling in December, Vermont Superior Court Judge Robert Mello wrote that by denying the petition, the school board denied the petitioners’ right under the Vermont Constitution to “instruct their representatives.”

“The clear purpose of these rights is to assure that the people of South Burlington will have an opportunity to play a central role in determining what is in their own best interests,” Mello wrote in his Dec. 12 decision.

The South Burlington School District appealed the ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court. In a ruling issued on Jan. 30 approving the appeal, Mello wrote that the district had met all the criteria for a Supreme Court appeal.

The central issue in the case — the meaning of the “right to instruct” clause in the Vermont Constitution — has never been examined by the Vermont Supreme Court, Mello wrote in his decision.

To read the full story, click here.

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