Jason Long, principal of T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School in Dixfield, speaks Tuesday at the board of directors meeting at Dirigo High School in Dixfield. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — Nine Regional School Unit 56 directors voted Tuesday to establish a Civil Rights and Equality Committee at the request of T.W. Kelly Dirigo Middle School Principal Jason Long.

Long said there is a need for an ad hoc committee “to study and discuss issues, professional development policies, activities and proposals related to civil rights and equality in RSU 56.” His request, he said, was on behalf of several groups who have come to him with their opinions on those issues. They include community members, parents, students and staff “on every imaginable part of the political spectrum and the educational spectrum.

“I believe that these topics are going to (have) increasing political impact and I think that it’s very important that we as a district develop a structure to have discussions around these topics,” Long said.

Voting were Carl Lueders and Natalie Sneller, both of Canton; Larry Whittington, Bruce Ross and Barbara Chow, all of Dixfield; Joe Brissette and Angela Cushman, both of Peru; Brad Dyer and Don Whittemore, both of of Carthage.

Absent were Angela Varnum and Samantha Noyes, both of Dixfield, and Konstantine Aslanidi of Peru.

The committee will include at least one school board member, advisers of the school Civil Rights Teams, building administrators, and up to six community or school stakeholders recommended by Superintendent Pam Doyen. Their first meeting will be in October.

School board directors Larry Whittington and Bruce Ross, both of Dixfield, said they fully support the request.

“This committee, I think is a very important thing,” Whittington said. “I think it needs to be (formed). We’re here for the students to be globally experienced in life.”

Ross added, “We’re moving forward and we’re being proactive and everything, and that’s what this whole committee is about.”

Director Brad Dyer of Carthage said having such a committee seemed like an effort just to be politically correct.

“I’m confused as to what we’re trying to do,” he said. “I think that it’s fair to say that children, and I’m talking about our students here, don’t have civil rights. They don’t.

“I’m not suggesting that anybody has any ill intent (by forming this committee) here but I truthfully cannot see what you’re getting ahead of, unless there’s something I’m missing,” he added.

Director Joe Brissette of Peru said his concern is that parents of students should be included and involved in the committee. Sometimes people “feel standoffish” or uncomfortable about participating in events with school board members, he said.

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