SKOWHEGAN — Thursday night’s school board meeting was brief as community members congregated to hear updates and concerns about bathroom signage at the high school.

Margaret O’Connell, one of the founders of the LGBTQ+ Somerset Social Group, addressed the board during public comment to question the members about gender-neutral bathrooms at the school.

Margaret O’Connell speaks in favor of the move to bring gender-neutral bathrooms to the school district Thursday during a School Administrative District 54 board meeting at the Skowhegan Middle School.

“I am a married lesbian who has advocated for the LGBTQ+ community for decades,” her letter reads. “I would say that the founders of LGBTQ+ Somerset Social Group, administrators, and board members are all on the same page to do what is best for the kids.”

O’Connell’s comments come weeks after the Jan. 9 meeting, when a community member addressed the board about bathroom signage using biased-speech on gender-neutral bathrooms.

Superintendent Brent Colbry announced at Thursday’s meeting that Gloria Gordon, who made the comments on Jan. 9, had resigned from her position as a substitute teacher for the district.

Lynda Quinn, chairwoman of the School Administrative District 54 Board of Directors, opens the public comment portion of the meeting Thursday with a request to not talk about the “Indians” mascot at the Skowhegan Middle School.

Prior to public comment, Chairwoman Lynda Quinn began by addressing the community about the tensions that came from the last meeting.

“I can’t tell you what to say or think, but I can control the narrative,” Quinn said.

Quinn asked community members not to speak on the “Indians mascot,” which the board voted to remove last March as the process for selecting a new mascot has begun and community members have been submitting suggestions for the new mascot. As of Thursday’s meeting, the administration has received about 450 suggestions, which can be submitted online or through a paper form.

O’Connell reminded the board that School Administrative District 54, which serves the towns of Canaan, Cornville, Norridgewock, Mercer, Skowhegan and Smithfield, is the largest school system in Somerset County per the 2019 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey for Somerset County.

“Is it ‘what is best for the kids’ when 40 students in Somerset identified as transgender … and do not have a safe gender-neutral bathroom throughout the school?” O’Connell asked the board. “Is it ‘what is best for the kids’ when 313 students in Somerset County identified as gay or lesbian or bisexual and do not have a safe gender-neutral bathroom throughout the school?

Our group is not making any demands or specific requests about how this project be completed, just that it be completed as previously outlined by (the administration), so that our gender-expansive students may also realize the increased safety and privacy being experienced by their peers through the recent bathroom renovations.”

 

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