The Oxford Hills School Board voted unanimously Tuesday night to indefinitely postpone the adoption of a controversial policy that would require school employees to keep details of students’ mental health secret from parents.
Under the proposed policy, a student experiencing gender dysphoria or gender confusion could ask a school employee to withhold that information from parents, and the school employee would be required to comply.
The proposed policy would also require school staff to coach students on how to avoid changing official records in a way that might allow parents to discover that the student is struggling with gender dysphoria or gender confusion.
The policy would effectively cut parents out of the conversation when it comes to student mental health.
More than 700 parents in Paris, one of the towns in the school district, were so alarmed by the school boards proposed policy that the signed a petition to recall Julia Lester and Sarah Otterson, the school board members seen as the driving force behind the policy.
Lester and Otterson, with the help of advocate attorneys from Drummond-Woodsum, attempted last week to annul the forthcoming recall vote by having the board issue a statement saying the town of Paris doesn’t have the authority to recall district officials.
Lester and Otterson refused to recuse themselves from the vote on that state, but nonetheless their effort failed, and the school board voted against issuing that statement, which means Paris’ recall effort will move forward under the town’s ordinances.
Lester did not attend the meeting.
Mainstream media reports on the policy have inaccurately portrayed the policy.
A report from WMTW’s Norah Hogan, for example, said the policy “seeks to provide support for students of all gender and sexual identities by fostering a safe and comfortable learning environment free of harassment.”
“Many of the speakers at the hours-long forum expressed concerns about the policy, arguing it would encourage teachers to withhold important information from parents,” she wrote.
Had Hogan actually read the policy, she would have known that the obligation to withhold information from parents is explicitly written into the policy, not merely a concern of parents.
The policy fight in the Oxford Hills School System is playing out in every Maine school district, as activists both on the Maine Department of Education payroll and at non-profit partner organizations work to impose left-wing ideas about gender and sexuality on Maine school children.
The conflict spilled over into the gubernatorial election this spring when social media users uncovered Department of Education learning materials that promoted to kindergartners the left-wing idea that doctors sometimes “make a mistake” when assessing a newborn baby’s sex.
That particular learning module was hastily removed in order to limit any political liability to Democratic Gov. Janet Mills. But elsewhere in Maine’s public school systems, young school children are being exposed to similarly age-inappropriate and radical ideas, like the concept of “assigned sex.”
At a K-12 school in Vinalhaven, for example, fliers from the non-profit group Out Maine adorn the hallways. Those fliers instruct students as young as kindergartner in the basics of left-wing gender ideology.
Out Maine has received more than $200,000 in taxpayer funding since Mills took office to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender content in Maine schools.
As gender ideology has become more prominent in public school policies and culture, the percentage of Maine students experiencing gender dysphoria or gender confusion has risen drastically.
In 2017, the idea of transgender high school kids was so foreign that the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, a biennial survey of Maine students, didn’t even ask about it.
In 2019, the first year the survey was offered under Mills, the survey asked high school kids whether they were transgender. 1.6 percent said yes. By 2021, that number more than doubled to 3.6 percent.
Katie Branch, a South Paris resident, attended the meeting to speak in support of the policy.
She said she’s done some research and learned that one-fifth of Maine students are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer, likely referring to the MIYHS data.
“Did you know that over 20 percent of students define themselves as LGBTQ+? That is a much bigger number than I would have imagined,” she said.
John Wilcox, who could not be heard well because he was wearing a mask, said he supported the policy and believed the policy’s critics were inciting an “act of terrorism.”
“I understand that there are individuals and groups that are fighting to remove board members and to stop this policy. And this policy will not be stopped,” he said.
“To have any person attacked verbally by their identity is an act of terrorism and should not be tolerated by anyone in the community,” he said.
Rep. John Andrews (R-Paris), a vocal critic of the policy, first proposed the idea that the board might vote in favor of an indefinite postponement of any final decision of the policy.
“I would encourage the board to vote for indefinite postponement,” he said. “We need to find that spot on the venn diagram where we agree.”
Oxford resident Jason Brine said the extended debate over the gender policy was a distraction from education.
“Why can’t we talk about education? I’ve been to twelve board meetings, there’s been nothing about education. Maybe sell the school to a private school, they might be able to do a better job,” he said.
“You guys are getting, what, 15 grand per kid? I mean, I respect yeah, but what are you doing?” he said.
“You guys are failing these kids,” he said. “Why don’t we talk about education and put this on the back burner? This kids deserve better than you, and I’m pissed off about it. So why don’t you start worrying about education?”
The recall vote for Lester and Otterson has not been scheduled.
You can watch WGME’s coverage of the meeting here: