FARMINGTON — The Mt. Blue Middle School civil rights team was recently recognized in “The Torch” for the work they did to change the school dress code policy so it would be inclusive for students of all identities.

“The Torch” is a monthly newsletter of the Civil Rights Team Project for the state’s Office of the Attorney General.

Members of this year’s Mt. Blue Middle School Civil Rights team, pictured in no particular order, are Aliza Decker, Azalea Shanti, Henri McCourt, Nora McCourt, Avery Jessen, Addie Colello, Maya Kellett, McKenzee Wheeler, Anndee Gardner, Joseyr Bunnell, Carly Greenleaf, Patti Sico, Sadie Burnham, and Haley Sico. Dee Menear/Franklin Journal

Last year, the MBMS civil rights team worked with administrators to make changes to the school’s dress code in order to feature more gender-neutral and inclusive language around clothing and body types.

The team analyzed the dress code, identifying specific sections that could be more inclusive of students of all identifies.

Using a model policy, they crafted their own version of a dress code, submitted it to administration, and met with them to discuss potential changes.  The new version is in this year’s student handbook.

“The old dress code wasn’t gender-neutral and that was really important to us,” said student Maya Kellett, who helped work on the changes.


For example, instead of listing expectations of specific articles of clothing, the policy lists ‘top and bottom (shirt with pants or skirt, or the equivalent …)”

Siblings Henri and Nora McCourt were also part of last year’s team. Other members of the team moved on to Mt. Blue High School. They are Meren Zeliger, Kamryn Joyce, Bridget Reusch, Vivian Cormier, Sophie Haley-Vigue, Kandie Hensley, and Callahan Towle.

Students also included a religious exemption for the rule prohibiting hats and head coverings, and a ban on all clothing with hate speech and symbols.

“The most difficult part was thinking about things we saw that needed to be changed and brainstorming how to make those changes,” said Henri McCourt.

Team advisors are math teacher Kayla Girardin and social studies teacher Kat Zachary.

The team has already been hard at work this year, Zachary said. In October, the team took part in the first-ever annual Day of Welcome, a state-wide initiative that celebrates and promotes the idea that school communities are for everyone and all the parts of their identities protected under the Maine Civil Rights Act.


As part of the initiative, MBMS team members made posters welcoming all races and skin colors, national origins and ancestries, genders, religions, disabilities and sexual orientations. The posters continue to be displayed at the entrance to the school.

“It is a celebration of inclusive schools,” Zachary said. “All identities are welcome here.”

Making holidays more inclusive and decentering Christmas are part of the team’s current work, Zachary said. There are plans for holiday door decorating contests, identifying all important cultural and religious holidays.

“Civil rights teams like the one at Mt. Blue Middle School are so important in helping to create school communities where everyone feels safe, welcome, and respected for who they are,” said Brandon Baldwin, Civil Rights Team Project director

The mission of the project is to increase the safety of elementary, middle level, and high school students by reducing bias-motivated behaviors and harassment in our schools. The program is in its 24th year. Civil rights teams from 175 school participate in the project, he added.

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