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A Vermont principal whom school board members admitted had a “meaningful and positive impact” on her school was nevertheless placed on paid administrative leave ahead of being terminated for mild criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a letter to parents and staff, members of the Mt. Ascutney School Board in Windsor, Vt., said they were “uniformly appalled” by a recent Facebook post from Principal Tiffany Riley, in which she expressed her support for BLM but with some caveats.
“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,” Riley wrote, as the school board’s letter noted.
“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?” Riley wrote, on behalf of herself, not as principal of Mt. Ascutney.
“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 [sic],” the post concluded.
That was too much for the board, apparently.
“The ignorance, prejudice, and lack of judgement in these statements are utterly contrary to the values we espouse as a school board and district. However, these statements were not alone,” the board wrote.
“They were followed later by a follow up Facebook post, which acknowledged no culpability, expressed no specific contrition or empathy, and showed no humility. Because of this glaring miscomprehension of the situation, we feel unanimously that Ms. Riley’s continued role as our school leader damages the school and its students,” said the letter.
Board members went on to note that because Mt. Ascutney is not a racially diverse school,” it can be “easy to forget or to be unconscious of the racial inequities that exist in the form of White Privilege in our community and our state.”
The letter also claimed that by “not acknowledging our White Advantage,” then “we are not attempting to provide our minority students an equal opportunity for education.”
“Although we recognize Ms. Riley’s meaningful and positive impact on Windsor School, we have voted unanimously to place Ms. Riley on paid leave, effective immediately, and we are resolved that she will no longer lead our school,” the letter concluded.
Riley isn’t the only one to be penalized recently for speaking her mind — on her own time and in her own capacity, which used to be a given and commonly understood constitutional right.
On Thursday during his opening monologue, Fox News host Tucker Carlson addressed the phenomenon, which began to worsen following the death of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis, a tragedy that sparked widespread rioting and protests that continue to this day.
He said the country is witnessing a “broad and powerful attack” on the principle of absolute equality under the law and the Constitution.
Carlson isn’t the only one to notice. Constitutional law professor and scholar Jonathan Turley pointed out that true free speech in the country is dying.
“As always, I come to these issues from a free perspective. I am less concerned with the merits of the position than I am in the refusal to allow one side to be stated without punitive measures,” he writes, regarding theE incident with Riley.
“I fail to see what educators cannot express their views in favor of or against BLM in participating in one of the most important periods of debate in our history. The message to educators is that you must not criticize BLM in your private life if you want to keep your job,” he continued.
“The board does not even entertain the possibility that Riley might not be a racist and still question BLM, which has been involved in controversies over academic freedom and free speech on campuses. We have never had any organization treated as so inviolate that it cannot be challenged by anyone in their private or personal discourse.”
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