Another example of the ongoing cancel culture wave, this time in Vermont. A high school principal named Tiffany Riley posted some statements on Facebook which offered support for the idea that black lives matter but questioned the truthfulness of some claims made by those associated with the group:
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.
I don’t know which “falsified” claims Riley is talking about but there are certainly many to choose from. For instance, many recent protests have featured people chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” despite the fact that the incident from which this slogan arose never happened.
In any case, Riley’s suggestion that you can support the idea that black lives matter and still have doubts about the organization and its commitment to the truth was too much for the local school board which held and emergency meeting and placed her on administrative leave. The board put out a statement which reads:
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. 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.
Notice that the board said her statement was prejudiced. In context that’s tantamount to calling her a racist since she’s being accused of prejudice against a specific race.
Ours 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.
This paragraph really has some strong substitute-religion overtones. White Privilege in this case could be a substitute for original sin. Either you confess that sin and work to eradicate it or you are an unrepentant sinner and complicit in sin. Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works? So much for the separation of church and state. The statement continues:
We have expectations of the leaders in our schools – that they will strive to embody education as a living, fluid concept, one that encompasses listening, learning, and teaching as equal partners. We speak of creating lifelong learners, but as leaders, we must also continually listen and learn. There are expectations of trust, knowledge, honesty, and thought that are not present in everyday conversation. It is our responsibility to be aware of that, especially in our public statements.
They don’t want someone who embodies education as a fluid concept. They want someone who will toe the line and only offer praise for a group they have decided should receive no criticism whatsoever. The statement concludes:
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.
She’s a good principal but we’re firing her because she’s not orthodox enough. That’s really the bottom line here. The sinner needs to be punished to set an example for others. Question Black Lives Matter (not the idea but the group) and your career will be ended.
Jonathan Turley pointed out the outcome of this is a clear chilling of free speech:
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. I would take (and have taken) the same position if the view on BLM were reversed. 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. 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.
Teachers in Chicago can go to Venezuela to support a dictator who has arrested and murdered scores of people, including suppressing free speech and the free press. They were not punished or declared “tone deaf.” Boards like Mount Ascutney School Board engage in open content-based regulation of speech of teachers in the private lives of teachers. They will be applauded for such action against free speech as people ignore the implications of such punitive measures.
This is not about BLM. It is about free speech. Of course, the Board is not being “tone deaf.” Mount Ascutney School Board has guaranteed that there will be no sound at all, at least no dissenting voices heard among its teachers.
Here’s a local news report on the situation.