FAIRFIELD — A parent of a student at Lawrence High School and a teacher who works there told school officials this week that there’s a hostile environment at the school in which students use racial slurs and harass their LGBTQ+ peers.

The parent and the teacher told the Maine School Administrative District 49 board of directors Thursday that the hostile behavior has not been adequately addressed by school administrators.

The parent has a nonbinary child in the 10th grade and said she has become increasingly concerned about the harassment her child has faced at school. She earlier wrote a letter to board members relaying her concerns.

“My letter to the board was concerning the unsafe, threatening and hate-filled environment at Lawrence High School,” the woman said Thursday. “I am outraged at the way minority students have been treated this year, and the lack of response from administrators to solve the issues.”

The Morning Sentinel is not naming the woman because she expressed concern that doing so would result in her child facing further harassment.

The parent said her child has been called a homophobic slur many times and another student had a pride flag ripped off of them. Students would also follow her child down a hallway and act in a threatening way, the woman said.


Isaac Badenya Thomas, a world languages teacher at the high school, also spoke at the meeting about bullying and harassment he said he has witnessed. The problems have only gotten worse in June, which is Pride Month, he said.

He claimed that in one instance there were several members of a varsity sports team in a hallway, in their team uniforms, shouting racial slurs, including the N-word, with no meaningful consequences.

Studies have found that LGBTQ+ youth can be subjected to such intense bullying that they are unable to get an adequate education. Those who report being frequently harassed tend to have lower grade point averages than students who were less often harassed, according to the Virginia-based Mental Health America. One study found that 60% of LGBTQ+ youth did not report incidents of bullying to school staff, and 30% who reported an incident said nothing was done in response.

There are organizations in Maine such as Rockland-based OUT Maine that work to support LGBTQ+ youth. The organization offers programs for youth and staff training for schools.

Some school board members on Thursday shared their own examples of student mistreatment. Beth Lambert, a Fairfield representative, said that her biracial daughter just graduated from the high school and was regularly called the N-word. Joel Bouchard, another Fairfield representative, said that his daughter is in fifth grade in the district and came home to tell him one of her classmates at the elementary school had used a racial slur.

Thomas said the district is not doing enough to address the problem and described it as “selective nonenforcement” of district policies. He said when students come to him with concerns and nothing changes, they trust the administration less and they trust him less, too.


“I have students who no longer share things with me because they, understandably, have seen that sharing things with me didn’t lead to the abuse stopping,” he said.

Thomas said that he was told by a supervisor to stop emailing complaints and to stop “creating a paper trail.”

The board passed a motion to create a subcommittee to find the best way for the board to address the issue.

High school Principal Dan Bowers spoke briefly at the meeting and acknowledged the allegations and that “we do have work to do, and we recognize that.”

Bowers told the Morning Sentinel on Friday that any report of harassment is supposed to be investigated by school administrators, and the information is logged into a student information portal. Students who display offensive behavior meet with an administrator and their parents are notified.

If allegations of harassment are substantiated, then there are further procedures to address the matter, Bowers said. When asked what those further procedures are, he declined to elaborate.

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