Mill River School Board tells public they don’t have the right to vote on BLM/LGBT flags

The Mill River Unified Union School District Board at its meeting Tuesday told the public that board members will not support a public vote on whether to raise Black Lives Matter flags and LGBT flags on school campuses.

The board’s chair, Tammy Heffernan, explained the group’s decision.

“We’ve reviewed the petition with the district’s attorney in light of the law and we have been advised that … the request for a vote by the voters by Australian ballot on the issue of flag-raising is not within their statutory powers,” she said, after hearing more than 35 public comments.

Heffernan said the board received emails concerning the constitutionality of the decision to raise activist flags on public grounds. She said legal counsel advised them to refer to the 2018 Skiff, Jr. v. South Burlington case, which related to renaming South Burlington’s school sports teams from the “Rebels” to something else.

“Our Supreme Court basically had held that the electorate does not have a right to vote on any petition that constructs or advises the school board to do anything,” Heffernan said.

She added that because of the COVID-19 virus, which currently has three Vermonters hospitalized, there will be no special in-person school board meetings “for the seeable future” on any topic including meetings on the flags.

“We want to keep our community members safe and that’s the way we’re going to operate,” she said.

Watch the July 22 board meeting

The supervisory union board initially approved flying the controversial flags during a June 17 meeting. A petition against the move followed weeks later, organized by local resident Art Peterson, a candidate for state representative in the Rutland-2 district.

During the comment period, Peterson was one of a handful of community members to speak against the flags.

“Those [petition] signatures are taxpayers in the Mill River community, and they are very, very concerned about the two flags that [you] want to be raised,” he said. “ … The flags are a symbol — the Black Lives Matter flag is a symbol of an organization with Marxist roots. It’s a symbol of an organization that continually is involved with violence, and if we put that flag on that flag pole, we’re telling the world that we agree with them.”

Board member John McKenna said he hopes the decision is final.

“I hope that we can put this to bed and move on and get those flags raised,” he said.

Board member Len Doucette originally voted to raise the flags, but in hindsight, he said, he wishes board members had put more thought into it.

“I get concerned that we have opened a Pandora’s box, and while I do not oppose raising those flags, I think we could have spent more time planning before we voted to raise them,” he said.

In all, about 30 speakers spoke in favor of the flags. Some of them were alumni who shared allegations about racism and homophobia in the schools.

Andrew Moshovetis, of Williston, has no experience at the schools, but he spoke during the meeting and took a verbal jab at Peterson.

“You do have to hear both sides. You’ve gotta listen to the people from BLM, [and] you’ve got to listen to Art and the ignorant things he’s saying,” he said.

Board member Doug Earle expressed frustration at the inclusion of speakers from outside the districts.

“The last individual … he wasn’t the only one [from outside the district],” Earle said. “This is a local issue done for our school district and the towns that we have.”

Later in the meeting, Earle said he received threats for voting against the flags. “I am going to make sure I keep myself close to protection,” he said.

Earle said his decision against raising the flags was not about race, and he noted that he and his wife have adopted five African-American children. He said he doesn’t support the flags because of the organizations and financial backers behind them.

“It’s got a large part of their money coming into them through a gentleman by the name of George Soros,” he said.

A billionaire investor, Soros is known for making massive investments in progressive-leaning media and activist groups including BLM. In a recent interview with the New York Times, the Open Society Foundation, which is headed up by Soros, announced that it would be donating $220 million to “black-led justice organizations.”

Earle suggested Soros gives money to groups to mount opposition to President Donald Trump.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

25 thoughts on “Mill River School Board tells public they don’t have the right to vote on BLM/LGBT flags

  1. Once upon a time our governance was of the people, for the people, and by the people, now it seems Boards, Commissions, and non-profit activists groups have usurped that power and the will of the people is no longer taken seriously.

    Those not grounded in our founding principles are rapidly surrendering precious liberty and as it slips away they see nothing wrong with what they do to facilitate the decline of a system they do not fully understand.

    As the people are being bullied into silence, our leaders are facilitating the desires of those who would control us for their own advantage.

    This is where we must take a stand and insist we are heard!

    • Too many people have forgotten that we are suposed to be the Land of the Free, Home of the BRAVE.

  2. Keep in mind, this issue has nothing to do BLM flags or LGTB flags. It has everything to do with whether or not our citizens succumb to totalitarianism and our Constitutional governance, as Benjamin Franklin predicted,

    “… end[s] in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.”

    ” Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone” JM

  3. The folks are not allowed to have a say in influencing the elected school boards course of action??????
    Am I missing something???? Since when did the right of free expression get denied in Mill River???? Do
    Is this school board exempt from the First Ammendment?? Furtyer, where did the district attorney study the law??? It would appear the law degree was issued by some back water correspondence school. Unbelievable!!!!

    • It’s pretty simple. They get to vote on who sits on the school board but not on what the school board decides. I don’t see the U.S. Congress asking me to vote on the military budget, so why would the school board ask your opinion on raising two flags?

      • But Mill River district citizens can vote for the people who represent them in this regard. Mill River district voters will have the opportunity to present a slate of school board directors sympathetic to their position in this matter, and other matters, in upcoming elections. The first question is, will they?

        “With Liberty comes responsibility. Which is why most men dread it.” GBS

        The second question is, can they?

        “Democracy is like two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” BF

        The third question is, if a sympathetic school board elected, do they have the power to offset the teacher’s unions and other education special interest groups who control the legislature?

        “…as a consequence of more than 30 state monopoly-bargaining laws that grant a handful of teacher union bosses effective veto power over how schools serving the vast majority of K-12 students nationwide are managed, what parents and schoolchildren want may not have much influence over what they get.”

        Stan Greer: Do as we say or school buildings will stay shuttered

    • You’re missing very little.

      I suspect the lofty Mill Riv. school board members are missing something.

      Property tax revolt now. Honestly, across the entire state.

      • Need more than a property tax revolt. We need a rebellion against tyrannical government at every level. Mill River can start by recalling all the board members immediately.

  4. “We are fast approaching the stage of ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force”. – Ayn Rand

    • I agree James, this is the end of what our country has been, boards and courts tell us what to do and you had better like it as there is no recourse. The bullies are running the country.

  5. Thank you TRN for the update on this situation. It was very informative. Thanks also for allowing comments.

    • Dorothy Bolduc, by thanking TRN for allowing comments, makes a very powerful statement about the importance of hearing the voices of the people.

      The voices of Vermonters who otherwise are not heard. Their voices overwhelmed by paid opinions writers working for aggressive advocacy groups or news organizations that are continually pushing their agendas.

      The comment section of the TRN allows the peoples’ unfiltered voices to be heard. Heard by school boards, mayors, selectmen, city councils, the legislature and the Governor. Heard at a time when individuals opportunities to speak are shrinking and limited. Heard at a time when paid advocates are pushing agendas harder than ever. Agendas that frequently don’t reflect the values and beliefs of wide segments of the people.

      Yes, Dorothy Bolduc has made a powerful statement on need for the people to be heard.

    • Yes, I agree. Sad and disturbing that VT Digger has suspended their comment section. It was one of the few relatively safe places to express a conservative opinion. Of course when those opinions became overwhelmingly conservative, suddenly it is too much work for them to moderate. Do you sense a pattern here ?

  6. When school board members elected by yhe public then refuse to listen to that very public, then it is time to remove them from office– very simple— vote them out!

  7. Not listening to the public is a sign they are communists. And in this case they are stupid too. If BLM actually cared about black lives, they would be doing something about the 95% OF BLACKS killed by other blacks.

  8. One student shows up in front of the Mill River School Board and gets his/her way……….Five hundred school district residents and presumedly tax payers petition for a vote on the matter and they’re told to get lost by this very same School Board……..Interesting dynamic……Let’s see what happens next.

    • It’s part of the plan, comrade… it gets voted yes.

      It is all written out for anyone to see and understand. The American loving democrats have been taken over by the socialists and the Bolsheviks, if you cross them you will be publicly hung, 2020 style by having your job taken away or you position.

      It’s in the handbook. Literally there is a hand book, there are even classes taught on the Power Dynamics….at universities.

      If we read and study their teachings and plans, they are entirely, entirely predicable, as they aren’t allowed to deviate. Many are unwitting pawns, thinking they are doing good.

  9. The letter the school board posted on line is a joke…and I quote ” Saying Black Lives Matter is not saying that no one else matters, it is saying Black lives matter as much as everyone else’s”. Then why has Tiffany Riley been suspended?

  10. I beg to differ. The electorate can choose (i.e. elect) board members sympathetic to their point of view.

    On the other hand, the Mill River Board’s position is indicative of a far more insidious circumstance that has created the dysfunction of the public-school monopoly. Local school boards, like the Vermont legislature, are controlled by a majority that is in-turn controlled by special interest groups, at the expense of the minority. As Franklin opined, Democracy is like two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch – which is why the United States is a Constitutional Republic.

    Remember, the current dysfunction of our school system was created and managed first by ‘local control’. It’s no different than ‘State control’. The only true ‘local control’ comes from allowing parents to choose the schools they believe best meet the needs of their children.

    School Choice. Your liberty and freedom depend on it.

  11. Art Peterson is a stand up guy who put it all on the line for this country and is anything but ignorant.

  12. The ‘electorate’, as the school board tyrant stated, may not possess the right to vote on the issue, but it would be the correct course of action.

    Why do so many petty public officials in this State go to the mat defending indefensible positions?

  13. Later in the meeting, Earle said he received threats for voting against the flags. “I am going to make sure I keep myself close to protection,” he said.
    Threats for being opposed to BLM. Where have I heard that before? Yes by all means support a terrorist organization.

  14. Well Mill River, you voted these fools in and now you have no voice,
    typical liberal power struggle

    Mill River, wake up you have a voice, vote these fools out !!

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