The Mount Ascutney School Board has fired the principal of Windsor High School over a June post on her personal Facebook page that was critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The school board’s 43-page decision was released Friday and concluded that Tiffany Riley’s statements on social media were “inconsistent with the expectations for a principal.”

“The record shows the content of the post is at odds with the values of inclusion and racial equality espoused by the District and the Board, which values have in fact been promoted by Employee as part of her work at Windsor School, because the June 10 Facebook post is readily susceptible to being construed to suggest racist themes. While there is no evidence that Employee personally holds racist beliefs, that is irrelevant to the point that the content of the post contains messaging reasonably susceptible to being construed as espousing racist views.

Notice of Decision
Board of Directors, Mount Ascutney School District

Riley’s original post was apparently prompted by the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in the custody of Minneapolis police That event led to a discussion — and disagreement — over whether a Black Lives Matter sign or message should be included at the school’s upcoming graduation ceremony.

In her June 10 post, Riley said: “I firmly believe that Black Lives Matter, but I DO NOT agree with the coercive measures taken to get 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…. Just because I don’t walk around with a BLM sign should not mean I am a racist.”

According to the decision, Riley’s June 10 post generated more than 100 comments and was widely shared by others. A day later, after an email exchange and telephone call with Superintendent David Baker about a possible followup post, Riley deleted her original post, but did not explicitly apologize.

“While self-reflecting, researching, learning, and trying to make myself more aware of the struggles of the BLM movement, I recently made a public post that unintentionally offended many people. I understand the struggles of the Black lives community and stand with them in the fight against racism. Prejudice, discrimination and racism has no place in the world. I love and support my community and will continue to reflect on, learn from, and continue to pursue equity moving forward.”

Tiffany Riley
June 11 Facebook post

Riley was placed on paid administrative leave June 12. In a public statement at the time, the board said: “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.”

The board unanimously voted to fire her July 27, pending a termination hearing. The Sept. 10 hearing was held in a closed executive session, despite Riley’s attempts to have the hearing open to the public.

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