Officials at Cony High School in Augusta are facing backlash on social media after photographs of a presentation on respecting students’ choice of pronouns went viral last week. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — Cony High School administrators are facing backlash on social media after photographs of a presentation on respecting students’ choice of pronouns went viral last week.

The images have garnered the attention of anti-LGBTQ individuals and groups in Maine and as far away as Texas, where a far-right blogger with more than 16,000 followers was among those who circulated the post.

Jeff Breton, who said his partner has a child in the Augusta school system, posted several photographs of the presentation on Facebook, with a caption reading: “This is what your Cony kids are seeing this morning in the auditorium. What the… you know the word!”

The slides, which Principal Kim Liscomb said students from the Gay, Straight and Transgender Alliance presented last Thursday to students during the Quarter 4 Recognition Assembly, urge people to be considerate of others.

One of the slides read: “Respecting someone doesn’t hurt you, the only thing you are doing by not respecting that person is hurting that person and other people who are affected by the lack of respect.”

Breton declined to comment on why he took issue with the presentation.


Cony High School Principal Kim Liscomb Kennebec Journal staff photo

A week later, Breton’s post has received more than 720 comments and 230 shares, most of which criticize the presentation and administration for allowing it to be shown to teenagers. Some parents threatened to home-school or remove their child from the Augusta Public Schools, while others praised the district for supporting LGBTQ students.

One Cony student who commented on the post said he or she “walked out” of the presentation, and another said he or she “didn’t know why it has to be shoved in our faces.”

Liscomb said the point of the presentation was about “being kind and respectful to others using the chosen name and pronouns of people.”

“We understand many comments were made in support of the adult’s position and many were made in opposition to the statement,” Liscomb said. “Some of the comments had hateful words towards Cony staff and students.”

The backlash began during the same week another central Maine high school found itself grappling with anti-LGBTQ behavior. Gardiner Area High School adopted a temporary policy to ban all but the American flag from being displayed after students got into a “heated” argument after one teen Friday covered up a Pride flag with a Trump flag.

It also comes at a tense political moment that has seen anti-LGBTQ policies cropping up in state legislatures across the country, including in Maine, where a bill was introduced this year to prohibit public school staff members from using names or pronouns for students not listed on their birth certificates without written permission from parents.


More than 25% of high school students in Maine identify as LGBTQ, according to the Maine Youth Integrated Health Survey from 2021, the most recent year for which data is available.

A separate survey of LGBTQ students by the advocacy group GLSEN found that 47% of Maine respondents had access to a Gay, Straight and Transgender Alliance like the one at Cony, which officials said is a key resource. The same survey reported 56% of LGBTQ students in Maine felt they had a supportive school administration.

Susan Campbell of the Rockland-based nonprofit OUT Maine said, “Having just one supportive adult can make a huge difference in a young person’s life.”

Steps districts can take to create more inclusive environments include creating policies that prohibit discrimination and bullying; supporting clubs, such as Cony’s Gay, Straight and Transgender Alliance; training staff members on LGBTQ issues; and increasing extracurricular activities that are welcoming to LGBTQ students, according to GLSEN. 

“We believe that it is important to have conversations about issues and acknowledge that we have many different opinions among our student body, staff, parents/guardians and the community,” Liscomb wrote in a statement to the Kennebec Journal. “The important thing in these conversations is that we need to be civil and respectful of one another.

“Hateful language toward our students, staff, parents/guardians, community or each other does not build our community.”

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