A Falmouth public school teacher lectured a Falmouth Elementary School (FES) student for failing to use the preferred pronouns of another elementary school student, public records obtained by the Maine Wire reveal.
That’s all just part of the job at a Maine public school that’s implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) protocols and teaching Queer Theory to young students.
Emails obtained by the Maine Wire show left-wing school administrators imposing progressive political ideas on teachers and students — and sometimes dealing with the fallout.
Can the PTO fundraiser catalogue sell Christmas themed gifts? Should teachers use only they/them pronouns just to be safe? What’s the best way to prepare students to call out their peers who commit microaggressions? If we ban religious holidays do we have to ban “Winter Break” as well since the timing has Pagan roots?
These are just a few of the weighty topics Falmouth school administrators explored over the course of a month last October, according to the emails.
The story begins with a controversial email that went out on October 1, 2022 to a staff digest and included the following message:
“Falmouth Public Schools does not celebrate Halloween. Halloween costumes, decorations, and parties do not have a place in our schools, for the reason that Halloween is a non-inclusive holiday with religious origins. There will be a number of opportunities for celebration, decorations, and special dress days over the course of the year. Please support all of our families and colleagues by being consistent and modeling inclusivity on our campus. If you can and it’s appropriate, have a conversation with students beforehand.”
When the Maine Wire first inquired about the rumored ban on Halloween, Superintendent Gretchen McNulty (she/her/hers) replied in no uncertain terms: “We absolutely have no policy along the lines of what you indicate.”
Yet parents in the community were adamant that emails had circulated around Halloween 2022 advising teachers against embracing the typically fun-filled holiday.
In response to a public records request seeking emails that contained the anti-Halloween language, the Maine Wire received dozens of documents that show McNulty’s Shermanesque denial of the policy didn’t exactly tell the whole story.
Those emails show that a directive prohibiting the celebration was indeed sent around to Falmouth school staff after weeks of formulation. Then, when parents found out about it and began contacting board members and administrators, McNulty quickly began to spin an alternative explanation.
What’s more, the emails show that banning Halloween isn’t the only crackpot progressive scheme to which the public school administrators have subjected young public school students.
THE EQUITY MEETING
In an October 12 email, Falmouth Childcare Director Julia Chace wrote: “Below are some notes from an equity meeting that Chelsea shared with me explaining why Falmouth no longer celebrates Halloween.” (emphasis added)
That email contains an articulation of the Halloween prohibition. And it’s detailed. Chace writes that students who nonetheless dress up for Halloween will be sent to the office — but only if the costume “is cultural appropriation or offensive…”
So a Power Rangers costume wouldn’t be a problem, but a Ninja might cross the line. A Disney princess would be okay, but not Mulan or Pocahontas — unless the child is Native American or Chinese.
Chace’s email also ominously notes: “Christmas needs to be addressed early … and Thanksgiving for the future.”
“Addressed” in this case is a euphemism meaning prohibited.
Remarkably, this email contemplating bans on Thanksgiving, Christmas celebrations, and Halloween costumes was sent out exclusively to pre-school teachers. Chace wasn’t addressing high school students getting sent to the principal’s office for wearing culturally inappropriate costumes; she was talking about 2nd graders.
Apparently it’s never too early to introduce children to the bleak, sterile, joyless holiday calendar of a pious progressive.
Two weeks later, that policy — which McNulty insisted did not constitute a policy banning Halloween — had been somehow been shared with teachers, staffers, and later parents. The emails don’t show exactly how the Halloween policy spread among teachers, but it’s clear that many teachers understood the directive as a policy that ought to be enforced.
On the big day, Oct. 31, the complaints started to roll in, and McNulty knew she had trouble on her hands.
In one message contained in the records, McNulty appears to be talking with a friend who works at MEMIC, a Portland-based consulting company, but whose name has been redacted. Whoever that person is, they got McNulty’s undivided attention in a way that some parents asking about the policy did not. That person raised the kind of concerns a normal person might raise with a policy that bans Halloween for children.
McNulty responded: “In short, the message you have clipped here was shared with staff as the basis for a more comprehensive conversations in each of our buildings. It was not written for, nor meant to be sent to families by the district or building administrations. I can certainly see why, out of context, this would be challenging information to make sense of. I am not sure how or why this was received by a parent. We asked teachers to refrain from wearing costumes and decorating. This was in no way meant to be a dismissal of Halloween, or any other celebratory occasion, for our staff, students and families; and it is unfortunate that some are perceiving it that way.“ (emphasis added)
In other words, McNulty said teachers shouldn’t celebrate Halloween, but in her view this wasn’t a ban on Halloween. And if you perceive the school saying “don’t celebrate Halloween” as the school saying “don’t celebrate Halloween,” well, it’s unfortunate you perceive it that way.
McNulty seems to approve of the policy being sent to educators while at the same time creating distance from it and denying that it was in any way a formal policy.
On November 1, one day after the cancelled-not-cancelled Halloween, McNulty is on an email thread with several other staff and board members trying to sort out the mess. At this point, a screenshot of the Halloween policy-not-policy has spread far and wide on social media.
Falmouth board member Jen Libby suggests that parents are fomenting “misinformation” and it could be resolved if the school had better oversight of parent Facebook groups.
“If [redacted] had a better understanding and communicated back to the Facebook/parent groups festering some misinformation it could quell some community distress,” she wrote. “It’s unfortunate that many of the social media platforms our families utilize lack accessibility for school leadership.”
Other emails show administrators voicing their frustration and disagreement with how the situation is being handled to McNulty.
“This message clearly states that FPS does not celebrate Halloween and the Halloween costumes, decorations, and parties do not have a place in our schools,” wrote Principal Stacey White.
“If I were a teacher I would interpret this to mean costumes were not allowed, which is what some teachers communicated,” she wrote.
“It also asks teachers to have a conversation with students, which many did. Exactly what you shared, Gretchen. I don’t want to throw our teachers under the bus,” wrote White.
“I would say we own this as leaders and share that in attempting to be inclusive and wanting to maintain a focus on learning, we realize that some students and families may have felt as though we were prohibiting students from expressing themselves. We have discouraged costumes for several years now, because it can be a distraction from learning. We promote and support the PTO Harvest Festival, which is a great opportunity for those students who wish to dress up and celebrate to do so. We had many students yesterday wear festive shirts and headbands. We absolutely want our students and families (I’m purposely using families here) to feel like they can be themselves. (Something like that?)”
At this point, the Falmouth school leadership is in full spin mode. Nothing has been communicated to parents.
McNulty is keen not to leave a paper trail — or email chain — on this one. So she furtively instructs her subordinate to keep their conversation out of emails.
“We need to move this conversation offline. Not going to send any written statement. Miscommunications abound,” she wrote to Principal White.
How the Halloween debacle was ultimately handled does not appear in the email records. But from Falmouth’s public facing policies, it appears the backlash was sufficient to save Halloween celebrations. At least for now.
The email that went out to pre-school teachers with the Halloween prohibition also contained a report of student misbehavior.
This one at Falmouth Elementary School (FES).
“Had an incident where a student refused to use another student’s pronouns, the teacher addressed this in the moment with the parent and student really well,” Julia Chace, the Director of Childcare, writes in the email, without elaborating.
In other words, an FES child younger than ten years of age didn’t use the preferred pronouns of another child younger than ten, and the adult teacher stepped in to correct the child’s misgendering.
Several Falmouth parents, who would only speak to the subject anonymously, said that the email referred to an event that became well known among Falmouth parents.
Multiple parents said the “misgendering” occurred during a recess when a student who identifies as non-binary was having a moment of confusion while deciding whether they belonged on the “girls team” or the “boys team.”
The student who committed the misgendering transgression was said to be a model student who did not intentionally use the incorrect pronouns.
Nonetheless, parents on multiple sides became involved and the dispute left behind still simmering animosity in the community, suggesting Chace’s idea of addressing the issue “really well” doesn’t sync with the view of many Falmouth parents.
DEI COUNCIL GOALS
Another one of the emails suggests the “DEI Council” at the school has come up with a clever way to prevent anyone from being misgendered: just ban pronouns that aren’t they or them!
The aforementioned MEMIC employee, who appears to be someone McNulty knows, also sent along what they described as “alleged DEI council goals” and a few questions about those goals:
“Not sure if the elimination of the typical he/she pronouns will make the teachers’ lives easier or harder,” MEMIC guy says. “Looks like the intent is that unless the teacher knows the preferred pronoun for each individual student, they will have to use they/them. Does that mean that if I don’t tell somebody explicitly my pronoun, they have to call me they/them? Will the teachers remember all that?”
Those are just a few of the hard questions raised when trying to implement progressive visions of gender identity in public school.
In a related email thread, a teacher asks whether “Parent Teacher Organization” is still OK since the schools are trying to transition to the more inclusive “Guardian Teacher Organization.”
But Principal Janet W. Adams clarifies that the real problematic part of an upcoming PTO fundraiser is that the catalogue for the fundraiser contains too much Christmas imagery.
“I recognize that some of the items in the packet are really “Christmasy” and this doesn’t sit quite right as we are trying hard to be inclusive,” she wrote.
“We’ve made so much progress with inclusivity in the past few years.”
FALMOUTH DEI TOWN HALL
As all this is happening, the authors of the emails are still running a public school whose nominal job is to educate students.
As part of this job, the administrators decided in January to have an “Equity Town Hall” in which McNulty and other staff would explain to parents why Falmouth schools are running this political experiment on their kids.
That town hall, as reported exclusively by the Maine Wire, went totally off the rails.
In secret audio, one parent can be heard leading loud accusations of racism against another parent who criticized the “woke” curriculum being taught in the schools.
At the end of that recording, McNulty professes her commitment to teaching critical race theory, regardless of what some parents might want.
“My name is Gretchen McNulty, I’m the superintendent of the school. And I commit to being anti-racist. I commit to being anti-biased,” she said, in the recording.
“And I don’t really know what I’m doing. Ok? But I say that knowing I have more knowledge and expertise than half the leaders in this state.”
DEI ACROSS MAINE
In March, Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin went before the legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee to address a number of issues that had cropped up with Maine public schools.
In response to questions about Maine’s public schools using social-emotional learning to teach gender ideology and critical race theory, Makin explained that “academic learning” needs to take a back seat in Maine’s schools.
“Academic learning is definitely going to take a backseat to all of these other pieces,” Makin said.
The context of the comment makes it clear that the “other pieces” Makin was talking about were progressive political experiments like social-emotional learning and various DEI programs — the very ideas these emails show in action in the Falmouth schools.
House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor) wrote a letter to Makin asking her to further explain those comments to elected officials.
Makin hasn’t responded.