AUBURN — Edward Little High School Principal Scott Annear gave an emotional apology Wednesday night to students and parents, after calling names of small groups of  students last week over the intercom to take part in focus groups concerning racism and bias in the school.

The groups were selected by demographics, including members of the LGBTQ community.

Those students felt their privacy was violated and they could be targeted by other students.

One day after last week’s incident, senior Colleen Basque told the School Committee that while they met with school officials, they were told,  “we all looked at each other mortified as school officials said things like, ‘We know who you are and what you do.'”

With anger still simmering a week later and parents lined up with written statements, Annear was the first to speak during Wednesday’s public participation session, offering a heart-felt emotional apology.

“We were wrong when we called the students down for the focus groups. I’m deeply sorry we have hurt students,” he said.

Annear’s remarks received a standing ovation.

Auburn Middle School Principal Bob Griffin added his own apology later in the session.

Superintendent Katy Grondin also apologized during her report, adding that the School Department has dropped ties with consultant Steve Wessler, the leader of the Civil Rights Team Project in the Maine Attorney General’s Office, who was helping the school system hold focus groups to study bias and harassment.

Wessler has worked with the Auburn schools in the past with no negative issues.

The topic gained urgency in Auburn when the Boston Globe magazine section wrote a story a few months ago talking about racism and harassment among students.

Several parents during public participation added their anger and disappointment at the way the incident unfolded. One suggested the administrators should undergo sensitivity training to avoid another incident.

Wednesday’s meeting began with a workshop on elementary and secondary administrators, as well as some teachers describing their school’s improvement plans. The workshop lasted one hour, 20 minutes.

Because of the length of the workshop and the nearly hourlong public participation session, Grondin recommended that the committee postpone its session on Positive Behavioral Intervention and Support until a later meeting.


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