Skowhegan residents should be disturbed to learn that school board member Jennifer Poirier organized an invitation-only event at a private business for board members, school administrators, and advocates for keeping the high school’s “Indians” nickname (“National group defends ‘Indians’ name, meets with Skowhegan supporters,” Feb. 24).

This appears to be a clear violation of the Maine Freedom of Access Act, which prohibits “conferences or meetings held on private property without proper notice and ample opportunity for attendance by the public.”

Poirier’s continued advocacy as a founder of the Skowhegan Indian Pride group has demonstrated that she cannot be a neutral arbiter in any vote or discussion of the school’s nickname. Additionally, board members Todd and Karen Smith, who sell “Skowhegan Indians” apparel in their store, hold a financial interest in the issue’s outcome.

Residents should be aware that the Virginia-based Native American Guardian Association invited to speak there was created to support the interests of professional and collegiate sports teams that use Indian-themed mascots and names. Those teams have a major financial interest: billions of dollars in revenue, collectively. Some of NAGA’s representatives are paid activists, while others have been exposed as frauds. They should be viewed as what they are: corporate shills in disguise.

The continued disregard for ethical and legal standards is a problem all school board members bear responsibility for. Not only are they potentially violating the law, their actions and inaction erodes public trust.

School Administrative District 54 board members should start fulfilling the obligations required of their positions as public servants. Poirier should be forced to resign from her position, Todd and Karen Smith should be required to recuse themselves, and the board should demonstrate its commitment to serving the interests of all current and future SAD 54 students through ethical and fact-based public discussions and votes.

 

Karin Leuthy

founder, Suit Up Maine

Camden

 


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