KENNEBUNK — Regional School Unit 21 took the first official step Monday in launching an independent investigation into the district’s handling of racist incidents that led a black teacher to file a race-based retaliation complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

The board voted unanimously to retain attorney Peter Lowe and Lewiston firm Brann & Isaacson to guide the district through the process of hiring and selecting an independent investigator to look into the incidents directly related to the complaint.

The board’s action comes a month after the Portland Press Herald first reported on the details of racist incidents experienced by former Kennebunk High School social studies teacher Rosa Slack. She filed a complaint over a March 2016 incident in which a student came into her classroom with a Confederate flag draped over his shoulders. He was later suspended, as was another student who videotaped Slack’s reaction and put it on social media. Slack said the district retaliated against her a year later in a job review after she accused it of failing to fully address racist incidents at the school.

One biracial family told the Press Herald they had moved out of Kennebunk because of the harassment their daughter experienced at the middle school.

Rosa Slack Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

The reports prompted hundreds of community members to attend board meetings and call for an investigation. Board chairwoman Emily Kahn said Monday the board intends to have two investigations, the first highly targeted and a second one, if needed, to look into systemic or broader issues stemming from the primary investigation.

Board finance committee chairman Matt Fadiman said Monday the initial investigation could cost between $30,000 and $50,000.

Lowe, a partner at Brann & Isaacson, said his firm would not serve as the investigator, but would help select the investigator through a public bid process and offer legal advice during the investigation.

“I think this is a great start and I’m very happy in the direction we’re going,” said board member Tanya Alsberg.

The Maine Human Rights Commission has two years – until January 2020 – to make a finding, and fact-finding is underway, according to Slack’s attorney.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine


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