Regional School Unit 56 board Chairwoman Barbara Chow of Dixfield, right, speaks at Wednesday’s meeting at Dirigo High School in Dixfield about federal and state laws governing each student’s right to use the bathroom of their choice. In response to a parent’s complaint, Superintendent Pam Doyen said locks have been placed on bathroom doors at Dirigo Middle School to make them single use during after-school hours. Seated from left are school secretary Cathy Arsenault and Directors Liz Kelly of Dixfield and Brad Dyer of Carthage. Marianne Hutchinson/Rumford Falls Times

DIXFIELD — Bathroom doors at Dirigo Middle School now have locks to make them single use during after-school hours, Regional School Unit 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen told directors at their meeting Wednesday.

Doyen said in a text Friday that two middle school girls and a transgender Dirigo High School cheerleader, who was formerly male, recently used the bathroom of their choice during a basketball game at the middle school. The high school cheerleaders were practicing in the middle school cafeteria during the game, she said.

Addressing the incident at Wednesday’s board meeting at Dirigo High School, parent Brandy Bordeau said the girls did not feel comfortable in the school bathroom.

“I think we can all agree we want our children safe,” she said. “I think most of us can also agree that it is unsafe for a 13-year-old girl and a high school boy to be in the same bathroom.”

Middle school Principal Jason Long sent an email Wednesday to Doyen and board Chairwoman Barbara Chow outlining the steps taken to help resolve the students’ and parents’ concerns, Doyen said. Locks were installed on bathroom doors to make them single use after regular school hours, she said, and shades will be installed in the cafeteria to provide privacy when the cheerleaders are practicing.

Bordeau asked the board and the community to consider installing doors or locks on the outer doors of multiuse bathrooms to allow only one person to use them at a time. She also asked parents and other community members to “bombard” directors with calls and emails to “make all children safe” in school bathrooms.


“If we could just simplify things; you go in the bathroom that your biological sex is and keep it simple,” Director Brad Dyer of Carthage said. “This is an issue that needs to be addressed in this community … and it has to be biological because we’re never going to solve this if we don’t.”

Chow stressed that it’s not a matter of policies and procedures, but “we have to follow law. We can’t just ignore federal law or a state law” regarding the right of students to use the bathroom of their gender identity.

In April 2023, the board voted to rescind its March 21 vote to build private bathroom stalls at the high school, citing a lack of support and negative responses from the community.

Also last year, the Maine Department of Education approved $214,750 from its School Revolving Renovation Fund for the bathroom stalls. The district would have had to pay back $67,582 over five years, and the state would forgive the remaining $147,168, Doyen said in February 2023.

In other business, the board:

• Agreed to spend about $15,000 to install vape detectors in the bathrooms at Dirigo High School. The detectors send Doyen an email alert and photographs the person leaving the bathroom. She then interviews the student in the photograph and conducts searches as necessary, she said. A detection system installed after the December holiday break revealed eight to 10 students with smoking materials in their possession, she said.

• Voted to request a waiver from the state Department of Education for two school days missed following the mass shooting Oct. 25 in Lewiston and two days missed in December during historic flooding and widespread power outages.

• Received a resignation letter from Nick Karavas, high school assistant principal and athletic director, who plans to leave the positions by the end of the school year. He said he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in mathematics education and/or teach at the collegiate level beginning in the fall.

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