PARIS — Residents opposed to a proposed student gender-identity policy in Maine School Administrative District 17 voted Tuesday to recall school board Director Sarah Otterson. The vote was 333-243.

The Select Board will appoint someone to complete the remainder of her three-year term, which expires in June.

Nearly 700 residents signed a petition in November offered by resident Armand Norton to recall Otterson after she voted to support the first reading of the Gender Identity of Students policy being considered by the school board. The controversial issue has divided parents in the eight-town district.

A similar petition also sought the recall of Director Julia Lester of Paris, but she resigned last month rather than face the recall vote. Troy Ripley was appointed to replace her.

Otterson and Lester were targeted by a group of residents for supporting the policy, which would include controversial provisions such as requiring school staff to keep confidential from parents any discussion where students claim to be transgender.

Proponents claim the policy would help protect children.


Otterson was appointed to the board in 2018 and won a three-year term in 2020.

When the recall petitions were presented to selectmen to schedule a vote, there were questions on whether the town had the authority to recall a MSAD 17 director since the school board is a separate entity from the town. After consulting with the Maine Municipal Association, the town attorney advised against holding a vote, but the town sent the matter to voters anyway.

During the November discussion, when asked by board Chairman Christopher Summers if the town could face legal jeopardy if it approved the recall vote, the attorney said, “It could certainly be subject to challenge, and a court would ultimately weigh in on this question.”

Otterson has not said if she will contest the legality of the vote.

A total of 329 residents came to the polls Tuesday, while 248 voted absentee.

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