JAY — Concerns about books and bullying were shared Thursday night, Jan. 25, with Regional School Unit 73 board of directors.

Rob Taylor, a Spruce Mountain High School teacher from Jay referred to Policy IJJ regarding instructional and library media selection. “I think it is really important that we follow the policy, it’s very, very clear in terms of what it delineates for steps,” he noted.

There is a process laid out in case of a complaint, which Taylor described. “Any actions that happen outside of that policy are really inappropriate,” he stated. “We really should be allowing that process to happen as it is written.”

Former board member Shari Ouellette of Jay stated her comments were on what is age appropriate reading material for children, nothing else. She asked that parents be allowed to determine the appropriate time to discuss sex with their children.

“If a child’s parents want them to read a book they can take them to the public library,” she noted. “The truth is, as good as intentions at schools are, you can’t prevent a child from checking out a book that they are not allowed to see or sharing them with classmates on the bus or at recess.”

John Benedetto of Livermore Falls wanted age appropriate books in school libraries. He suggested using Universal Book Content [UBC] grading system which uses a zero to five rating for the degree of sexual, drug, violence and similar content in books.


Roger Moulton of Livermore Falls spoke of parents wanting age appropriate books being looked at as  an attack on LGBTQ books. That is far from the truth, he stated.

Brooke Gray of Livermore Falls felt the book Rick was sexualizing children, wasn’t something she would want her young children to have access to.

Steve Bien of Jay said Rick is about a middle schooler exploring questions of sexuality, choosing to be different and how to confront bullying in school. Those who deal with children daily know children are not all the same, he noted. He stated once book bans and allowing that kind of intrusion into the school are entertained, the questions become endless.

In some states it is impossible to talk about race and some elements of American history, Bien noted. He said the concern now is about a book dealing with sex, bullying and being different but concerns about other topics could be raised.

“I think we have to draw the line and make it clear that we trust our teachers and their process to make decisions about appropriate curriculum for our students,” he stated. “Unless the school community can make a clear stand on the issue of censorship and book bans, this will be a never ending issue that will bedevil every aspect of education year after year.”

Ouellette also spoke about bullying of adults – not just kids – occurring in the community.  “This is happening on both sides and it needs to stop,” she said. “A good school board candidate has dropped out of the race because his business is being targeted. This is unacceptable. This is the reason I got off the school board years ago. They came after my family.


“It’s wrong. This is beneath our community because I believe that we all have our kids’ best interests at heart. So please, disagree if you would like, but stop with the targeting of family and businesses.”

Jami Baxter of Jay was concerned with bullying at the middle school level among female students. Her eighth grade daughter and friends witness bullying, have acquaintances who bully others but are afraid to report it over fears of being “the next one that gets beat up”, she said.

“I do fear for the safety of some of these students,” Baxter said. “These girls are brutal. It is not just catty name calling anymore. These girls are downright beating the bejeebers out of each other and other students and it’s really scary.”

Kris Targett, the middle school principal is aware of the situation, she stated. Baxter isn’t sure there is a solution to the problem. She spoke of a girl who finally had enough and retaliated but no one, including her daughter was willing to step forward to name the students bullying the girl.

“I don’t know how many people are actually aware of the extent of what is actually happening,” Baxter added.

Jessie White of Livermore Falls said bullying within the school system starts with adults. She described times her daughter shared examples of teachers speaking poorly about students. Teachers are role models and getting them sensitivity or inclusive leadership training would be a good place to start, she stated.


“It is important that we hear everyone’s viewpoints because we are a community and communities are made up of different viewpoints, different opinions and we are stronger because of that,” Director Phoebe Pike of Livermore Falls said. “The melting pot makes us better. It makes us stronger together even it we don’t always agree on everything. That is okay.”

Empathy, compassion and understanding are what is needed most, she noted. Once everyone agrees to treat others with kindness, respect and compassion then better behaviors can be modelled for everyone, she stated.

“I am proud of RSU 73 because even though we don’t always get it right, we are trying to and we will learn from our mistakes,” Pike said. “We will do better because that is what we do.”

Director Holly Morris of Livermore noted Rick is a book in the elementary school library. She has read most of the book and understands parents’ concerns.

Director Tina Riley of Jay paraphrased part of district policy on educational materials and the steps involved with challenging those materials. “I think it is essential that everyone concerned consider these policies which by law guide our decisions as a school system and as a board,” she said.

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