A longtime substitute teacher and paraprofessional in Maine School Administrative District 75 (MSAD 75) has resigned following the district’s recent adoption of a “transgender and gender-expansive” student policy.
MSAD 75 covers schools in Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, and Harpswell.
The stated purpose of the policy in question, ACAAA, is to “foster a learning environment that is safe and free from discrimination, harassment and bullying,” and to “assist in the educational and social integration of transgender and gender-expansive students.”
Months of heated debate surrounding the policy focused on balancing students’ right to privacy and parents’ rights to be informed, leading to several drafts and revisions of the policy leading up to its adoption.
The final policy advises that in case of a student whose parents are unaware of their child identifying as transgender or “gender-expansive,” “the Superintendent should be consulted, and the matter resolved on a case-by-case basis” before the student’s parents are informed.
“In resolving the matter, the Superintendent should evaluate whether there is risk of harm to the student by notifying the parent(s)/guardian(s) of the student’s request to change their name and/or pronouns,” the policy states. “Students should be informed that parents/guardians have a right to access all education records of their child; and, therefore, the school cannot keep the change in name and/or gender a secret.”
The policy also allows transgender or “gender-expansive” students to use bathrooms, locker rooms and other school facilities in accordance with their “gender identity.”
The MSAD 75 School Board unanimously supported the adoption of the policy on Nov. 16, and it is set to take effect Feb. 2, 2024.
In a scathing Nov. 17 letter to MSAD 75 Superintendent Heidi O’Leary and Board of Directors, Rebecca Brooks, who worked as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional in the district for 17 years, submitted her resignation and slammed the board over their adoption of the policy.
Brooks wrote that the board’s adoption of the policy “is leading this community down a treacherous rabbit hole.”
“I am exhausted, physically, mentally and spiritually,” she wrote. “This district is crossing a dangerous boundary by entertaining the transgender dysphoria phenomenon.”
Brooks pointed to the district’s ACAA policy of Student Protection from Harassment and Sexual Harassment, stating that the new ACAA policy creates a “hostile environment” by allowing “this age inappropriate topic into our schools.””
“My brain is struggling to comprehend the reckless disregard for the most basic facts of child development and human biology and psychology,” Brooks wrote. “So I must allow my heart to guide me. As an employee of SAD75 for 17 years I am disheartened to witness such cowardice that prevents adults from addressing the true mental health crisis of our youth.”
The longtime Topsham-area substitute teacher wrote that her “heart aches for this community,” and “for the confusion that has crept into our consciousness.”
“We have lost our grasp of the CORE truths that keep us grounded in reality and are meant to keep us safe; body, mind and soul,” she wrote. “In this alone we are failing our youth.”
In her letter, which is dated one day after the board’s adoption of policy ACAAA, Brooks submitted her resignation “effective immediately” in order to “stay true to my own moral compass.”
The MSAD 75 Board of Directors is set to discuss Brooks’ letter of resignation during their Dec. 14 meeting, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham.
MSAD 75 Superintendent Heidi O’Leary did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Brooks’ resignation.
Read Rebecca Brooks’ full letter to MSAD 75 Superintendent Heidi O’Leary and the Board of Directors below: