Messalonskee High School senior Sophie Mihm, 17, speaks Wednesday to the Regional School Unit 18 board of directors during a meeting in Oakland. She and other members of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Messalonskee High School were objecting to the removal of an LGBTQ-themed poster from the school. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

OAKLAND — A dispute over whether to display an LGBTQ-themed poster in Messalonskee High School’s guidance office prompted a handful of students to tell the school board this week they were being marginalized.

But the disagreement over Superintendent Carl Gartley’s decision to remove the poster appears to have led to a resolution that will allow a modified version of the poster to be hung at the school.

The original poster, titled Gender 101, was created by a Rockland-based organization called OUT Maine. It provided definitions for words and terms like “transgender,” “gender fluid” and “gender nonconforming.”

Regional School Unit 18 Superintendent Carl Garley responds to a question Wednesday during a board of directors meeting in Oakland. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The same poster drew criticism last month from some parents in Farmington-based Regional School Unit 9, but that school board voted last week to keep it on display.

About a half-dozen students with Messalonskee High’s Gay-Straight Alliance appeared at Wednesday’s meeting of the RSU 18 board of directors. The students said they viewed Gartley’s removal of the original poster as him taking “initiative” on behalf of LGBTQ students without consulting them first.

“We will not be erased from our own schools,” senior Sophie Mihm said at the meeting. Mihm and other alliance members addressed the board to say the poster was “innocent and educational” and should be kept up.


Gartley said the problem was not with the poster’s material and he supports LGBTQ students. Gartley took issue with the “political” organization behind the poster, OUT Maine, and said Wednesday he wants to have “conversations within our schools” on these issues before turning to outside organizations.

OUT Maine provides support services for LGBTQ youth in Maine. The state Department of Education lists it as an LGBTQ school resource.

People gather Wednesday in Oakland for a Regional School Unit 18 board of directors. Members of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Messalonskee High School attended the meeting to object to the removal of an LGBTQ-themed poster from the school. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Gartley said Thursday he met with the students following the board meeting and said the alliance is going to create its own poster for display and already have an “excellent design.”

He said it was likely the students’ poster would repurpose the same information in OUT Maine’s. Once completed, he said it will hang in the high school’s health and guidance offices.

“It’s OK for people to disagree and have civil discussions and compromise,” Gartley said Thursday. “The one thing I think everyone agreed on is, you know, we want to make sure every kid feels comfortable at school and feels supported.”

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