LEWISTON — The Lewiston City Council has waded into a debate over whether the theater organization Maine Inside Out should be involved in the school district, after a person affiliated with the group is alleged to have killed two people in June.

School officials have said the individual only attended a performance in Lewiston and was not directly involved with students, but several elected officials have questioned the organization’s vetting process, claiming it’s a student safety issue.

The council’s discussion Tuesday weaved back and forth between a debate over whether Maine Inside Out should be involved in the schools, and why and how the council was having the discussion in the first place.

Police say Marcel Lagrange, 24, shot and killed a Westbrook couple in front of their two children in late June. After the incident, the Lewiston School Committee voted to pause Maine Inside Out’s work with middle and high school students until administrators could investigate his connection to the program.

Superintendent Jake Langlais has said that Lagrange attended a May 16 play the group hosted at the school, which was open to the public, but there is no evidence he was in direct contact with students through the organization. On Sept. 11, members of the School Committee tabled a discussion on allowing Maine Inside Out to resume its program, after some said they felt uncomfortable with the organization working with Lewiston students during school hours.

Maine Inside Out supports teens in the juvenile justice system through art, peer-to-peer support groups and other resources. A group spokesman told the School Committee that roughly 40 eighth grade and ninth grade students have completed one to three sessions with the group to create and perform plays.


School Committee Chair Megan Parks said that following the Sept. 11 meeting, a constituent questioned why the School Committee did not allow public comment during its discussion, and she shared the procedure for how the committee could take up the item again. Concerned for the possibility that the committee might reconsider its vote, she said certain members of the committee reached out to members of the City Council, which she said led to “fear-mongering” this week.

On Tuesday, the council voted 4-3 to approve a resolution directing Councilor Linda Scott, the council’s representative on the School Committee, to oppose any reconsideration of a partnership with Maine Inside Out.

The resolution led to a firestorm between councilors, showcasing a council that is increasingly divided heading into the November election after sparring on several recent issues, including the mayor’s committee on community safety.

Titled, “A resolution pertaining to the safety of our children,” the document says the council “resoundingly denounce this partnership as contrary to our avowed and overwhelming stance of ensuring our children’s safety,” and directs Councilor Scott to “carry a strong message of disapproval of this partnership to the School Committee.”

Scott, who is not running for reelection, said she was uncomfortable with the resolution, and that “nowhere in our rules of governance does it say our (representative) will work to defeat, encourage or vote in a certain way because a majority of the council directs that.”

“This isn’t about safety, it’s about politics and upcoming elections and you want to control not only this council but also the School Committee,” she said.


Councilor Stephanie Gelinas repeatedly said the School Committee and school administrators should be trusted to handle the issue, and several others questioned how the proposed resolution even ended up on Tuesday’s agenda with such short notice.

Scott said she and two other councilors were unaware the item would appear on the agenda, and that an item is not supposed to be added to the agenda after the Wednesday prior to a meeting unless it is considered an emergency that will cause “irreparable harm” to the city.

Darryl Shepherd Jr. and Chiara Liberatore of Maine Inside Out work in June 2022 with Lewiston Middle School students during rehearsal. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“At this time, it’s not on the (School Committee’s) agenda. Maine Inside Out is not in our schools. How is this an emergency?” she said. “Bullets are flying around our children everyday, but a conversation on that is ‘anti-police’ by your standards.”

Councilor Bob McCarthy, who supported the resolution, said he’s concerned for allowing “convicted felons” who “could not pass a background check” to be involved with Lewiston students.

“I question their ability to screen these people who will be around our children,” he said, adding that he considered it an emergency because the School Committee could bring it back up Monday. “If they get back in the schools, it will be a travesty.”

Councilor Rick LaChapelle repeated the opinion of several School Committee members when he said he has “no problem” with Maine Inside Out, but that he doesn’t believe it belongs in the school system.


“I have no doubt there’s positive there, but if I’m going to be hung out to dry for something, I have no problem protecting our students,” he said, adding that the council “has every right” to ask its School Committee representative to bring a message to the committee.

Noah Bragg, lead for grants and communications at Maine Inside Out, said MIO has partnered with schools and correctional facilities for many years and has “always followed institutional protocols requested by our partners.” He said the group’s facilitators, who work directly with students, completed volunteer forms when MIO started working in Lewiston in 2022, “with all the necessary information for (the school district) to do background checks.”

“We acknowledge the fears about safety given the ongoing violence in the Lewiston community and the incident in Westbrook in June,” he said Friday. “Our work at MIO is about creating art to be in dialogue about difficult issues including harm and violence.”

Bragg said the team has met regularly with school administration, teachers and staff throughout the partnership.

“We stand by our work, our team members, and our 15 year history of safety in our groups and performances,” he said. “We are committed to working in collaboration with the Lewiston school administration and school board on our (memorandum of understanding).”

According to school officials, the memorandum of understanding under consideration earlier this month between the two parties would require that Maine Inside Out adhere to certain safety measures and school expectations, along with other requirements.


Several teachers and others spoke out in favor of Maine Inside Out on Tuesday.

Aimee Ranger, a theater teacher at Lewiston High School who has worked with Maine Inside Out, said that while she’s always concerned with student safety, “I don’t see this as an emergency.”

“What I really wish is that anyone that has an issue with MIO have direct conversations with the people that run it, because the work they do is so important,” she said.

Ranger said today’s youth are often criticized for not knowing how to communicate with each other and the broader world, and that theater programs like MIO are something “that can help them grow in that way.”

Another supporter said those involved with Maine Inside Out “are learning to be the citizens and neighbors we are claiming we want them to be.”

Billie Jayne Cook, owner of the Agora Grand and a City Council candidate, said the council has engaged in “fear mongering” starting with the membership of Mayor Sheline’s community safety committee. Referring to Maine Inside Out, she said, “There’s a bunch of people in that organization who have paid their debt to society and have changed their lives for the better.”

When asked Friday, Sheline said the council resolution “was clearly not an emergency” and that it was “a blatant rejection of the separation that should exist between the City Council and the School Committee.”

According to the Portland Press Herald, Lagrange had sometimes shared poetry, writing and music with Maine Inside Out after connecting with the group while at Long Creek Youth Development Center four or five years ago.

Joseph Jackson, Maine Inside Out’s director of leadership development, told the Portland Press Herald in June that Lagrange had access to a case worker, an assisted housing program and support groups like MIO, but said Lagrange’s supporters struggled to get through to him.

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