This evening I have a couple of stories out of Maine. Both stories are connected with education.
The first story concerns a bullying event in Penobscot County, at "the town that paper made," close to the center of Maine. The second is a story out of the annual spring meeting of the Maine Principal's Association at Samoset Resort, on the coast between Portland and Bangor.
The first story involves hate. The second involves fairness. The two often fail to coexist.
An East Millinocket teenager has become an ex-high school student after threatening to shoot a transgender student.
A fifteen year-old was issued a summons for terrorizing after threatening to shoot an 18-year old senior who was born female but identifies as male. The younger boy apparently objected to how the older student dressed, according to police. The Bangor Daily News is not identifying either boy because the younger boy is a juvenile and the older one is an alleged victim.
There were some comments made towards [the transgender student’s] sexual orientation, I guess you could say. There were some threats toward [the student’s] life. It rose beyond what you could call typical bullying toward the [student] – if there is such a thing as typical bullying — and that is when we stepped in.The threat occurred on a school bus after classes on February 15. The transgender students told his parents, who notified police the following week.
--East Millinocket police Officer Kevin Giberson, the investigating officer
Giberson interviewed a half-dozen witnesses before issuing the summons. The investigation was delayed by the February school vacation. Giberson said it was the first case he has experienced that involved a transgender student.
Two weeks ago the East Millinocket School Committee voted unanimously to suspend the offending student until the end of the school year, according to Superintendent Quenten Clark, who declined further comment.
Region 3 Juvenile Community Corrections Officer Josh Ash has yet to determine whether the case warrants a referral to a juvenile court judge, nor had it it been decided whether the case warranted handling as a hate crime.
The transgender student told Giberson that the harassment and bullying had been a consistent feature of this school year.
The [student] said it was a constant thing. It was a constant thing, but this was the first time it rose to the level of a threat.Giberson complimented the victim's parents for handling the incident appropriately.
I think [the student] was definitely scared. It had gotten to the point where [the student] had enough, to the point where [the student] was afraid to go to school and that is just not a good situation for any student to be in. I think the parents in this situation handled it very well by making the determination to report it to the police.The Maine Principal's Association has created a new athletic policy for transgender students and provides a pathway for participation by transgender student-athletes.
No child should have to be subjected to bullying, but when it gets to this level, it absolutely should be reported to police.
The first logical step in a bullying situation is to work with the school. Certainly if it gets to the point where a law is broken, a threat is made or worse, the police should be involved.
In the last year we had been contacted by a couple of transgender students very respectfully asking us to consider a policy that would meet their needs. And in the end, we are about providing opportunities for all kids, so we’re trying to be proactive.Maine took a cue from similar policies in Colorado, Vermont and Washington…while also reviewing the policies of the NCAA and the IOC.
--Dick Durost, MPA executive director
We gathered information from the plans of those three states, then got our attorney involved in taking the best parts of those plans to create our policy.The final proposal gained unanimous support from the MPA's Interscholastic Management Committee before being approved "nearly unanimously" by the MPA membership at its annual spring conference last Thursday.
I think it’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it. If we hadn’t done this, it’s an issue that’s growing and eventually the courts or the Maine Human Rights Commission was going to do it for us.Under the new policy a student or parent/guardian may notify the school administration that the student has a consistent gender identity different than the birth-assigned gender which may be listed in the student's registration records, but still wishes to participate in activities in a manner consistent with the student's gender identity. The school would then call for a hearing before the newly constructed MPA Gender Equity Committee, which consists of five members (four present or former principals or assistant principals plus a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or licensed mental health professional with experience in gender identity health care and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health standards of care.
The important issue is that transgender students face issues and encounter roadblocks every day of their lives, and hopefully this will clear up one of those roadblocks.
--Don Reiter, president-elect of the MPA
A confidential hearing would then be held within seven business days and the GIE Committee would grant the student;s request to participate in accordance with the student's stated gender identity unless it is convinced the student's claim to be transgender is not bona fide or that allowing the student to compete on a single-sex team consistent with his or her gender would give the student an unfair advantage or put other student-athletes at an unacceptable risk of physical injury.
Approval of eligibility would be binding on all MPA member schools and would be valid for the duration of the student's career unless specifically granted for a shorter period. If the request is denied the student or student's school could appeal to the MPA Scholastic Management Committee. whose final decision would be binding on all parties.
We’re trying to do the right thing. There are one or more transgender students in just about every high school in the state, and we need to recognize all kids for who they are and what their needs are.
We applaud this decision, which will make participating in athletic programs safe and open to more Maine students. We’re grateful to the Maine Principals’ Association for their thoughtful work on this issue and look forward to continued work with them and other groups to make Maine’s schools and school activities safe and accessible for every student.The policy takes affect immediately.
--Betsey Smith, executive director of Equality Maine