As I explained in my last commentary, following community demands to stop displaying the BLM flag at Randolph Union High School, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Shurtleff decision regarding flag displays, OSSD Superintendent Layne Millington blamed community racism and unruly parents as the source of the problem. It eludes Mr. Millington that the common ground of Vermonters has always been the First Amendment that he has usurped.
Mr. Millington claims he can ban “Let’s Go Brandon” T-shirts because they are “profane,” displaying overt content discrimination that he seeks to paint as justified. President Joe Biden has used the phrase, but Layne injects his interpretation and smugly insists he is “right,” like a naked emperor. Justice Alito observed in the recent case of Shurtleff v Boston:
So government speech in the literal sense is not exempt from First Amendment attack if it uses a means that restricts private expression in a way that “abridges” the freedom of speech. … Were it otherwise, virtually every government action that regulates private speech would, paradoxically, qualify as government speech unregulated by the First Amendment. Naked censorship of a speaker based on viewpoint, for example, might well constitute ‘expression’ in the thin sense that it conveys the government’s disapproval of the speaker’s message. But plainly that kind of action cannot fall beyond the reach of the First Amendment.
Randolph Union High School has repeatedly discriminated against political positions disapproved of by the leftwing administration, barring conservative speech by children while applauding and displaying overtly political liberal messaging, including in school curricula.
Layne Millington opened this May 4 “discussion” with exactly that framing. Stating that he would be blunt in answering questions, Millington proclaimed his disgust that some students burned a BLM flag. As unfortunate as burning the BLM flag might be, nothing could more obviously constitute political speech. Millington imputes a racist motive to students and parents in their BLM objections, even though 1) he concedes that the flag was illegally displayed, 2) many students and parents always knew this, and 3) it is the BLM flag and one-sided politicization of schools that has created the resentment and division that Millington now seeks to project onto the community. He claims he seeks to put students first; but he must put their constitutional liberties first, as he is legally bound to do.
Burning the United States flag is a well-established, well-protected, right of free speech. At the meeting he called to appeal for unity, he lectured those in attendance to “put themselves in the position of others” in empathy. But Superintendent Millington did the exact opposite — he judged and condemned students for burning an illegal hate symbol of the left, a BLM flag that represents racism, anti-Americanism and violence. Had RUHS displayed an MLK flag, this conflict would not have been seeded. “Anti-racist work” is the opposite of MLK’s teachings, and a failure every time; government has no business experimenting with harmful ideologies, especially in public schools. Attacking others by imputing subjective motives creates conflict and resentment, as is being proved.
I am not advocating for, or defending, the burning of BLM flags. I am stating a clear legal fact, which is that the burning of flags for political motives is free speech. This would not excuse stealing a flag or burning a flag (BLM or American) on school property. But by condemning the burning of a BLM flag (and of alleged but unstated parental comments on facebook), this superintendent abused the podium and his authority by framing the event ideologically from the very start.
Author Douglas Murray strongly warns (in “The Madness of Crowds“) that the weaponization of social justice ideology will create a backlash against gay, transgender and BIPOC people. This is exactly what has occurred in Randolph, though Mr. Millington now seeks to transfer responsibility for the hate and division he has irresponsibly inflicted onto the parents and children who are his victims.
RUHS and other Vermont schools displaying the BLM flag have stubbornly violated the law, in betrayal of any oath to the Constitution to provide children a safe and nurturing environment. This failure is ongoing, as clueless school bureaucrats can’t comprehend why their newfangled idiocy is not embraced by all — they violate basic free speech rights of children, then attack those kids when they resist. This is illegal. No amount of childlike obfuscation by Millington will ever erode the First Amendment protections that he and others continue to violate.
Everything done in RUHS is perfectly consistent with BLM and critical race theory (CRT) — agitate, call people racist, then if they introduce facts or law, violate their rights. CRT and BLM both specifically call for eliminating the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause, to impose an overt racism to supposedly eliminate racism. It is based in fallacies, and in the opposite of what Martin Luther King taught — love not hate.
So long as Superintendent Millington condemns Vermont students as racists for resisting his clearly illegal conduct, the conflagration in Randolph will fester and grow. Perhaps parents must bring the matter to court to restore order — and law — to their runaway school system. Then the love of MLK might eclipse the racist hate of CRT and BLM.
In Texas v Johnson, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down government efforts to ban the burning of the American flag as unconstitutional. Layne Millington is aghast that students would burn his beloved BLM political symbol — but nothing could be more “pure” as protected political speech. Why wouldn’t sensible Americans burn a hate symbol illegally erected at the school their tax dollars pay for? Millington erroneously imputes racist motives to a left-right political feud that he continues to inappropriately inject into the school. This is why we have a Constitution, this is why we value free speech.
Instead of playing a seven-minute video of rock group U2 at the Superbowl, maybe in the future this superintendent will roll out the Constitution for authority. If he must use rock and roll, how about the Beatles?:
You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.
Vermont parents know what the laws are that protect them and their children, even if overpaid, condescending bureaucrats still can’t get a clue. Love not hate; law not betrayal; civility not condemnation. Layne Millington lectured May 4 attendees on not pushing people “into the red zone” while he pushed people there. Proffering a proposed path to reconciliation he posted the following three questions for consideration:
- How do we move pockets of people from the red zone to the yellow or green?
- How do we stop pushing people from the green and yellow into the red?
- What ideas will help us move forward in a way that deescalates the community and by reflection the schools?
Here’s a proposal:
- Put the Constitution back in its legal place. Stop betraying the nation and children.
- Stop falsely attributing motives to children and parents. It is abusive and disgusting, and being done by Layne Millington with clueless zeal.
- Prevent Layne Millington from inflicting yet more illegal, clueless damage on the community which is increasingly mirroring his hate and contempt back at him.
Douglas Murray is being proved right in Randolph and across the Green Mountain State. Vermonters must demand: “Mr. Millington, tear down this flag!”
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2022. All rights reserved.