Left-Wing Maine School Board Members Lose Recall Challenge Amid Fight Over Gender Rules

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Sarah Otterson (left) and Julie Lester (right) both face recall by Paris voters

A school board recall fight in the Oxford Hills School District is the latest chapter in a growing divide over the role left-wing gender theories should play in Maine schools.

Tuesday night, an effort to block a recall election for two school board members in the Oxford Hills School District failed during an emergency meeting of the school board.

Nearly 700 Paris residents signed a petition calling for Julia Lester and Sarah Otterson to be removed from the school board over their support for a controversial school policy that requires school staff to keep information about student mental health secret from parents.

But at last night’s meeting, Lester and Otterson, with support from Drummond-Woodsum attorney Tom Trenholm, tried to the convince the board members that the recall effort, which occurred within the municipality of Paris but would affect all of SAD 17, was illegal.

They wanted to force the school board to issue a statement claiming that it would not recognize as valid Paris’ recall petition, but after an extended executive session the school board declined to issue that statement.

The board voted 9-6 against denying the recall petition with six board members absent.

Members Lester and Otterson refused to recuse themselves from voting on whether the board would deny the legitimacy of the recall petition.

Reached by phone, Otterson refused to comment, saying she wanted to “see what happens.”

She would not say why she declined to recuse herself from the vote.

Lester could not be reached.

The recall petition was made possible by a 2010 ordinance that allows citizens to recall local officials. That ordinance was changed in 2018 to include school board members.

The meeting was not live streamed online like most school board meetings, few members of the public attended, and most of the proceedings occurred in a private executive session.

In testimony at the meeting, Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris) said the entire affray — and other school board conflicts over gender policies — have been engineered by Drummond-Woodsum attorneys to boost billable hours.

“Drummond-Woodsum has created a whole new sector of school law with regard to gender ideology,” said Andrews.

“The more strife they cause on school boards and more communities they tear apart in small towns all over Maine, the more billable they accrue on the backs of municipal tax payers,” he said.

Trenholm, the Drummond-Woodsum attorney present at the meeting, replied to an email Wednesday morning asking for questions to be submitted via email, but he did not respond.

He declined to respond to Andrew’s allegations and did not say how much money his firm has made through its involvement in the recall effort.

[RELATED: Oxford Hills School Board Votes to Require Staff Keep Student “Gender Identity” Changes Secret from Parents…]

The Oxford Hills School Board voted in October to adopt a controversial new policy on gender that would require school officials, in certain circumstances, to withhold information from parents about the mental health of students.

If, for example, a student was experiencing gender dysphoria or gender confusion but did not want their parents to know, then school officials would be required to keep it secret.

The policy would also require school officials to coach students on how to keep the information a secret from parents by limiting changes to official school records, like name changes.

Paris will move forward with the recall election for Lester and Otterson, which is slated to take place on January 10, 2023.

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