WATERVILLE — Students from the Waterville Junior High School’s Civil Rights Team recently sponsored an Anti-Bias Week to raise awareness about perceptions of minority groups in the school. The week, which took place last month, kicked off with an assembly presentation “Understanding Bias,” which was delivered by Brandon Baldwin. Baldwin works for the Attorney General’s office as the schools and curriculum coordinator for the statewide Civil Rights Team Project. He drew from Dr. Seuss’s story “The Sneetches” as he illustrated how people can exhibit a bias for groups that they belong to and a bias against groups of people who are different.

Civil Rights Team members kicked into action with an activity called “Where is your family from?” They put up a world map in the cafeteria during lunch and invited students to place stickers on it to show off their national ancestry. The following day, the focus shifted to another category of people protected under the Maine Civil Rights Act, people with disabilities. Civil rights team members and teachers led students through a series of activities where they were able to get a taste of what it’s like to have a learning disability or autism.

Later in the week sexual minority students were the group that the civil rights team chose to highlight. Everyone was invited to participate in the Day of Silence, where students take a vow of silence to raise awareness about the silencing effect of bullying and harassment on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and those who are perceived to be LGBT. More than 200 students participated in the event, showing their support by wearing strips of cloth over their mouths, around their arms, or around their legs.

The week culminated with a series of gender stereotype-busting posters featuring members of the WJHS community and celebrities.

The Civil Rights Team at WJHS is part of a statewide network of civil rights teams, all of which are working to raise awareness about bias-motivated behaviors and harassment in order to make schools safer for all students. For more information, visit visit maine.gov/ag/civil_rights/index.shtml.

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