Todd Smith: A bad principal?

By Todd Smith | The Caledonian Record

Last week the Ascutney School Board fired Windsor School Principal Tiffany Riley for a comment she posted on her personal Facebook page. She wrote:

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.

Riley has been on on paid administrative leave since June. At the time the school board said it was “uniformly appalled,” and unanimously “resolved that she will no longer lead our school.”All six members signed a statement that said (in part):

The ignorance, prejudice, and lack of judgment in these statements are utterly contrary to the values we espouse as a school board and district.” The board added that Windsor is “not a racially diverse school, so it is easy to forget or to be unconscious to the racial inequities that exist in the form of White Privilege in our community and our state. 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.

Superintendent David Baker told VTDigger in June, “I thought her account had been hacked because the post was so insensitive to the recent plight of our minority community.”

Former Windsor Principal Tiffany Riley

The board last week said the post was deeply harmful and disruptive and Riley’s lack of an unambiguous and wholesale apology was grounds for dismissal.

We read Riley’s post differently, but Digger offers a back story for additional context. A former student apparently asked Principal Riley to remove an American flag painted on the school’s hillside ahead of a June 5 graduation ceremony. Riley said “no” and was asked to include a Black Lives Matter flag next to the American flag.

Riley was interested and asked the former student if she had a flag. The young woman said “no” but suggested that Riley have one painted next to the American flag. Riley reportedly asked the buildings and grounds supervisor about it before deciding against the move. In some people’s eyes that decision signaled a lack of sympathy for the cause from Riley.

It also might be worth noting that Riley is a member of the Vermont Equity Practitioners Network whose mission is to “improve the equity and quality of educational opportunities for all students.”

That sounds like a good and reasonable mission and makes it even more challenging for us to understand the reactions of the school board and superintendent in this case.

Although we’re fully cognizant of all the insidious and dramatic ways structural racism infects American systems, we don’t think militant censorship and cancel culture serves anyone well. The BLM cause is a critically important one but speech and thought police aren’t going to help. In fact, we expect (and hope) the Ascutney board will soon have a First Amendment lawsuit on their hands that they will most assuredly lose.

And therein lies an important point.

We believe the best thing about the United States is liberty and equal protection under the law. A bedrock of that liberty is freedom of speech and expression. We also wholeheartedly believe the worst thing about the United States is our violent, racist history that denied these very freedoms to a huge swath of Americans.

It makes little sense to us to sacrifice the former in an effort to begin rectifying the vast evils of the latter.

Todd M. Smith is the publisher of the Caledonian Record, where this editorial first appeared. He lives in St. Johnsbury.

Image courtesy of Tiffany Riley Facebook page

6 thoughts on “Todd Smith: A bad principal?

  1. When the school board said, “The ignorance, prejudice, and lack of judgment in these statements are utterly contrary to the values we espouse as a school board and district.” they simply showed how mired in Socialist indoctrination that has become Vermont. My God, this woman was villianized for her very reasonable view of the BLM issue. I to hope she takes this to the highest court possible for being defamed by this unscrupulous board!

  2. The Romans would put people on a cross, a slow torturous death for all to witness as they walk on the apian way. Yes when you crucify people on a regular basis it tends to keep the populace in line.

    The term decimate, to decimate them. Means to randomly kill the 10th person in line, your military line, tends to make people obedient.

    We are a little more sophisticated today, in socialist Vermont. No, we publically chatise and fire people should they even slightly venture off the new world order plantation. Heaven forbid you think and question what is going on, even more so in an educational facility with impressionable young minds.

    Don’t you realize schools are for indoctrination!!!!!

    Yes so we’ll fire those in the highest paid state positions for even questioning, veering slightly off the sanctioned propaganda.

    Wonder why Vermont never changes? Here’s one reason, public hangings. She’ll never work in our state again, think if you have a long, large family. You gonna speak up or are you going to tow the propaganda? This is how dictators control the populace. It’s as old as time itself.

    Vermont is the most corrupt state in our Union. If she can get a trial out of our state, she’ll find justice, but not in it.

    • Is there any politician standing up for her constitutional rights?


      If you are leading and you are not standing up for those being unjustly punished, you clearly aren’t for the little man, the constitution, the rule of law, and just common decency.

      Who will step up to the plate?

      Who will crush the down trodden with their silence?

      Welcome to Vermont politics. When are we going to change our path?

  3. This is a grossly misguided and revengeful school board who’s firing of Ms. Riley cannot be justified, tolerated nor dismissed without further action…….It is simply wrong!

    This school board has ruined a young women’s promising career and its actions cannot stand. What is the value of this young women’s career?………Be assured its worth a lot, an amount the school board must be held accountable for.

    An authority above the school board has to have the final say in this matter……..A matter that has to this time be wrongly decided.

    • I hope the Vermont Supreme Court is not that authority. Better it be a Federal Court.
      I see this as a very costly mistake for the School Board- one that hopefully will be litigated.
      That the words of Ms. Riley are so offensive to some is indicative of what Vermont has become. From the local school board to the Vermont legislature- dissent shall not be tolerated.
      Ms. Riley, there is no ignorance, prejudice, and lack of judgment in your words. The community you worked in however- seems rather full of ignorance and lack of judgement. I wish you well in continuing your career- in some other less radical location.

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