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Former Windsor principal’s lawsuit moves toward trial

  • Tiffany Riley

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/21/2021 10:15:03 PM
Modified: 6/21/2021 10:15:06 PM

RUTLAND — A nearly yearlong legal battle between the Mount Ascutney School District Board, and former Windsor School principal Tiffany Riley, who was fired last year after making a Facebook post that was deemed critical of the Black Lives Matter movement, could be ready for trial in early 2022, according to recently filed court documents.

In a scheduling order, filed in U.S. District Court in Rutland earlier this month, attorneys for Riley and her former employer agreed to share all discovery evidence with each other by Dec 15.

That evidence could include Riley’s personnel records; communication with the public and media about the case; and any history the school has with investigating and terminating other employees, according to the order.

The case is scheduled to be ready for trial in February, according to the order. But Pietro Lynn, an attorney for the school district, said that might be a temporary target.

“It is nearly impossible to predict when the case will be tried. COVID has backed up the docket,” Lynn wrote in an email Monday. “I hope we are ready by then, but cases often move slowly.”

The order is the latest in the lawsuit, which Riley and her attorney Bill Meub filed against the School District board last summer, accusing the district of firing her unjustly and infringing on her right to free speech.

In the lawsuit, Meub claimed that Riley was fired over a personal Facebook post she made in June, which said “I firmly believe Black Lives Matter, but I DO NOT agree with coercive measures taken to get this point across; some of which are falsified in an attempt to prove a point.”

She also wrote that “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.”

Following the post, the board placed Riley, who made $113,000 a year, on paid administrative leave in June 2020 and voted to terminate her July 27, pending a termination hearing. The hearing was held in September and the board issued a written decision Oct. 14, which officially ended her position and the paid administrative leave.

In its decision, the School Board disputed the notion that Riley was fired just for the Facebook post, writing that there were other factors, including that Riley displayed a “refusal to admit fault” and to work with the superintendent on an apology.

But Meub argued Riley was fired when she was placed on leave in June 2020, and that it was unjust because it was done without the necessary termination hearing. In March a federal judge sided with Meub and determined in a ruling that Riley was fired in June 2020.

“We continue to defend the case. Our position is that the District acted properly,” Lynn wrote in an email Monday. Messages to Meub for comment on the case were not returned Monday.

Since Riley’s termination, Colleen Deschamp and Kate Ryan have been serving as co-principals of the Windsor School and will do so next school year, school officials said on Monday.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.




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