Voters in Paris will decide Tuesday whether to recall two members of the Oxford Hills School Board in a vote with big implications for the future of local rule and gender identity policies in Maine schools.
Boardmembers Sarah Otterson and Julia Lester, both of Paris, are facing recall after they put their support behind a controversial policy that would have required district employees to keep information about student mental health secret from parents.
Both Otterson and Lester backed a so-called “gender identity policy” that, if passed, would have prevented school employees from telling parents when a student expressed feelings of gender dysphoria or gender confusion.
The policy would even have required school employees to coach students on how to avoid making changes to official school records that might inadvertently reveal the secret information to parents.
When details of the policy emerged, district parents revolted, with some in Paris circulating a petition to recall the pair. That petition eventually garnered nearly 700 signatures.
After several contentious school board meetings, the board eventually voted to indefinitely postpone consideration of the policy.
Before that vote, Otterson and Lester attempted to nullify the upcoming recall election with help from an attorney with Drummond-Woodsum, a Portland-based law firm.
At a separate meeting of the school board, Otterson and Lester attempted to have the school board vote in favor of issuing a statement saying the board would not respect the outcome of Paris’s recall election. Neither board member recused themselves from the vote, but the measure failed anyway.
While Otterson remains on the school board, Lester opted to resign prior to the recall.
As a result, Tuesday’s vote could leave the Oxford Hills School Board with two openings. But it will also send a message to remaining board members that parents and taxpayers in the district aren’t keen on school officials injecting left-wing theories about human sexuality into school policies and classrooms.
The Oxford Hills School District is far from the only school system reckoning with controversial policies regarding human sex and sexuality.
Across Maine, schools and parents are debating what role, if any, left-wing ideas about gender, sometimes described as gender ideology, ought to play in classrooms from elementary schools to high schools.