Governor concerned Ascutney School District Board infringing on free speech rights of BLM-questioning principal

By Guy Page

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is concerned about the constitutionality of the Mount Ascutney School Board’s decision to put Windsor School principal Tiffany Riley on leave for questioning some Black Lives Matter tactics.

On Friday, June 12, the Ascutney School Board released a statement saying it is “uniformly appalled” by statements made on Facebook by Principal Tiffany Riley and announcing she has been put on paid leave and “will no longer lead our school.” The statement is signed by all six members: Chair Elizabeth Burrows; Vice-Chair Amy McMullen, Beth Carter, Kris Garnjost, Nancy Pedrick and Bill Yates. Windsor School is a pre-K-12 school. Chair Burrows is also one of four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the two-seat Windsor-1 House district.

Tiffany Riley Facebook page

Windsor School Principal Tiffany Riley, seen here at Martin Luther King Jr. burial site in Atlanta, Georgia, was put on leave after she published statements on Facebook questioning Black Lives Matter tactics.

Riley graduated from a nearby Vermont high school and holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Castleton University. She is a member of the Vermont Equity Practitioner’s Network. Her personal Facebook page includes photos of her next to the eternal flame at the Martin Luther King memorial in Atlanta, Georgia.

The board statement quoted the following post by Ms. Riley: “I firmly believe that Black Lives Matter, but I DO NOT agree with the coercive measures taken to get to this point across; some of which are falsified in an attempt to prove a point. While I want to get behind BLM, I do not think people should be made to feel they have to choose black race over human race. While I understand the urgency to feel compelled to advocate for black lives, what about our fellow law enforcement? What about all others who advocate for and demand equity for all? Just because I don’t walk around with a BLM sign should not mean I am a racist.”

The board said the statement demonstrates “ignorance and prejudice.” Riley’s statements have made the school complicit in perpetuating White Advantage, it said: “If we are not acknowledging White Advantage and working to remove it, we are not attempting to provide our minority students an equal opportunity for education. If we are not teaching all our students that bias exists in our community and working to remove it, we are complicit in its perpetuation.”

According to a June 14 VTDigger report, the controversy began when Riley refused to remove a painting of an American flag in view of the June 5 graduation ceremonies. An ongoing conflict between Riley and several families ensued. The news report quotes local residents both in favor and against the board’s action. Vermont Law School professor of constitutional law Jared Carter reportedly told VTDigger, “I think there are serious concerns when the state takes action against somebody for what is essentially political commentary and political speech in the context of what’s obviously a contemporary political issue.”

At today’s press conference, Scott expressed similar concerns. Vermont Daily asked Scott, “As the chief executive sworn to uphold the Vermont Constitution, do you think the Ascutney School Board is stifling free speech by threatening the Windsor School principal with the loss of her job for expressing skepticism about some of the BLM tactics?”

Scott replied: “It sounds like a constitutional question that is appropriate to ask. [The governor said he is aware of the situation, and does not know if the principal has hired a lawyer.] “I do question a bit that when you have someone who is expressing their right to free speech, to be penalized for that, is problematic.”

Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Tim Pierce and Tiffany Riley Facebook page

23 thoughts on “Governor concerned Ascutney School District Board infringing on free speech rights of BLM-questioning principal

  1. Thank you governor for finally waking up. We as a state and country are now told what to say and when to say it and even then all of us could face a hostile media because our message wasn’t perfect in their political eyes.

  2. Thank you for reporting on this. All comments so far mirror my own thoughts, and we certainly all have a right to our opinion and free speech.

  3. While “Justices Neil Gorsuch and John Roberts joined the court’s four liberal judges in a landmark ruling that involved a 1964 civil rights law that barred discrimination of employees based on sex, according to USA Today.”, 1964 civil rights law, apparently, doesn’t bar the Ascutney School District Board from discriminating against the free speech of reasonable points of view from its educators.

    Again, its time to enable the comprehensive School Choice of parents, students AND educators as the tyranny of the public school monopoly tightens its grip.

    • This school monopoly is the same problem in the urban cities, the only reason why Vermont doesn’t have racism within our school system is because we are all white.

      The oppressive nature found in the school systems, however, are the same, because Vermont is adopting big city social ideals to “solve” our problems, when in fact it does the opposite.

      • I don’t believe anything specific can be drawn from the actions of the Ascutney School District Board other than that they toe the line of public education special interest groups. If anything, the ASDB decision is flippant, an expedient for thinking well of themselves in today’s political current. Tomorrow they’ll do something entirely different because they have no convictions, no sense of individual responsibility. Meanwhile, they pass that bogus attitude on to teachers, parents and students, because no one can choose an alternative.

        “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” T.S. Eliot

        • While that may be true, somebody is orchestrating the entire thing, as it’s happening across all cities and areas of similar thought. It’s NOT a coincidence.

          • Mobs may be incited by individuals. But once a mob forms, no single person can control them any more than one can herd cats.

  4. I’d kick in for her legal fund.

    The school board all needs to lose their jobs and needs to be made a public example of the way this principle was. We first heard about it on WCAX.

  5. BLM, Antifa-fa, ( Anti Fascist Fascists ) Occupy Anything are all George Soros funded in one way or the other organizations. Maybe Soros contributed to Scott’s campaign. Scott is only doing what his donors want him to do. And they always fall back on the good old Constitution when it suits them even though they have never read it or know what it means.

    “The more a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it”. – George Orwell

  6. I think Ms. Riley’s comments were spot on and she should be commended for say what is so obviously true.

    If something isn’t done to halt the onslaught of this intolerant, fundamentalist religion of Leftism none of us will be safe from its persecution.

  7. As Benjamin Franklin told the woman who asked him about what form of government had been determined to which he replied,” A Republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” We must uphold the Constitution and our Republic before it is too late including the free speech of those who don’t embrace lawlessness!!

  8. Perhaps as a basic requirement to be a candidate for school board in Vermont people should at the very, very least know the difference between indoctrination and education?

    Vermont…’s your sign.

    • Remove School Board. Sue for libel

      Where did board Chair Elizabeth Burrows
      get her Law Degree?

      Disgusting, ignorant overstepping cowards
      who take directives from…?17? year olds
      for political pandering
      Shame Shame Shame!

  9. White privilege?
    Hollywood is massively white, massively racist in their portrayal of POC, they are also anti-men. Hollywood is extremely racist.

    What are the tactics? Very, coincidentally? Exactly like Rules for Radicals. Tactics to which the school board has themselves adopted. You don’t try and find peace, you don’t try and bring people together in love and harmony, YOU FIRE THEM!. Yes this is tactic used by fascists, communists and authoritarian governments to oppress free speech and get mandatory compliance. It is a tactic used purposely to instill fear. She is perfectly right (principle).

    I would suggest the complete school board should be educated out of their ignorance about not knowing they are using subversive tactics, instilling fear among the faculty and promoting fascism. They should learn what the word prejudice means.

    This principle should be in line for promotions within the school system.

    Perhaps the board should learn to distinguish the difference between propaganda and truth? Perhaps the board should learn and study that we are a constitutional republic not a democracy and the implications there of.

    There is ignorance and prejudice in Vermont, apparently it’s ripe in the Ascutney School District.

    You can tell a tree by it’s fruit. Who is kind, fair, understanding, bringing peace and harmony to the Ascutney?????Bringing people together in an educational environment? (not indoctrinational, their is a difference)

  10. We’ve finally hit the point where a violent corporation – Black Lives Matter – is now above criticism. One of two things will happen if anybody decides to call them on their violence: either they’ll attack you, your family, and threaten to burn your business down, or the elected officials will declare that you’ve committed a ‘hate crime’ and use the full force of the State to destroy your life. Either way, nobody will dare come to your defense for fear of being called racist.

    Enough is enough – it is past time to put these violent thugs in their place. Their flag has no business flying over public property, and the slogan should not be imprinted on public streets. This group has no respect for anything or anyone not in total compliance with their demands, and it needs to stop the violence and the rhetoric immediately. They won’t be getting any reparations, they won’t be getting free college, or health care, or anything else. Best to let them know that right now, before the other side turns the tables on them.

    This Vermonter has had enough of them.

  11. The governor better re-address the Constitution, if he has ever read it. The 1st amendment guarantees people the right of freedom of speech without fear of prosecution by the government. It does not address being fired for speaking one’s mind.
    With that said it is pathetic that people have to fear being fired for speaking their mind when disagreeing.

    • The governor couldn’t find our Constitution if we glued it to his face. He’d best wake up really soon – before it’s past the point of recovery.

    • It would seem that the thought police have invaded our education system. Just because this lady stated a point of view with which I’m in total agreement gets is found unacceptable by the thought police, she gets suspended. While Vermont is a crazy liberal state, we do have a Constitution and the First Amendment. Someone ought to inform the Mt. Ascutney school board that these documents exist.

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