FAIRFIELD — With graduation ceremonies being held this week, Lawrence High School senior Moss Lamperta had hoped to be feeling relief and excitement in reaching the milestone. But instead Lamperta describes feeling unsafe at school and trying to get school administrators to take concerns about harassing behavior seriously.

“I’ve been in (Maine School Administrative District) 49 my entire school career,” Lamperta said. “Ever since fifth grade I have dealt with sexual harassment. I have dealt with being told that it was my fault. I have dealt with being told that I’m provoking it; I’m influencing them to do it.”

It is a struggle that several Lawrence High students, including those who are LGBTQ+, have described in interviews with the Morning Sentinel. They say administrators are not adequately handling conflicts at the school, from issues with other students to behavior from teachers. School officials don’t follow up on complaints or brush off recurring issues, leaving students to fend for themselves, they contend.

It’s not the first time such complaints have been raised, and school and district officials said staff have undergone training and investigate all reported issues. But students said it isn’t enough, and any changes made are not being reflected in the hallways and classrooms of Lawrence.

The students’ concerns come as national alarms are also being raised at U.S. schools. GLSEN, a national advocacy group on LGBTQ+ issues in K-12 education, announced in October the findings from a 2021 National School Climate Survey showing a decline in the availability of school resources for LGBTQ+ youth. The survey reported that the nation’s schools generally “remain hostile for LGBTQ students,” with “the vast majority of LGBTQ+ students who attended school in-person at some point during the 2021-2022 academic year (83.1%) experienced in-person harassment or assault based on personal characteristics.”

Lawrence High Principal Dan Bowers said in an email that he could not comment on specific situations because of privacy concerns, but that administrators take steps to investigate student reports and take prompt action. Those same concerns about confidentiality prevent administrators from sharing details of the consequences imposed, Bowers said.


“However, I do hear the perspective shared by our students and want them to feel that they can bring forward their concerns and that we, the administration, will handle their concern with care,” Bowers said. “We will continue to work to ensure that our students understand that the administration cares about them and about the learning environment.”

Asked to respond to reports from students that administrators are still not handling these issues in the high school, district board of directors Chairwoman Karen Kusiak said it was not a perspective she had heard before and that she did not have a comment.

After similar complaints were raised last year, the board created a subcommittee that met over the summer to develop an action plan for diversity and inclusion. The panel made recommendations to the policy and educational programming committee, which then reported to the board, Superintendent Roberta Hersom said in an email.

Hersom said she took additional steps, including meeting with building leadership and reviewing their responses to the reported concerns. District officials also developed additional training for staff, Hersom said, focused on reviewing policies and mandatory reporting responsibilities, as well as on providing a safe environment for LGBTQ+ students.

Schools in the district also formed diversity, equity and inclusion committees and student groups, and officials conducted a U.S. Department of Education School Climate Student Survey. At the high school, administrators added daily time in the schedule for these and other groups to meet, and a new student group, Queer Coalition, was formed.

But despite the new trainings, students say they feel like little is getting done. They also say harassing, inappropriate behavior is directed at a broad swath of students, not just minority groups.


Ronnie Allen, a 16-year-old sophomore at Lawrence, said other students have inappropriately touched Allen. This year Allen had a problem with a boy in a class who was committing the same behavior. Allen told the teacher, who didn’t stop it, and then went to administrators, who didn’t seem to believe the claims. Allen transferred to another class to avoid the other student.

“I felt unsafe going to the school, because I was absolutely terrified that I would have to deal with being touched all the time and just being grabbed at,” Allen said.

Skylah Reid, a sophomore, said she had ongoing issues starting in junior high, but much of that stopped with remote schooling during the pandemic. However, issues returned when she was back in the school. Last year, Reid said she had a Pride pin ripped off her jacket and had water sprayed in her face. After reporting it to administrators and showing where the incident occurred, Reid said staff told her mother that Reid provoked it.

Lamperta said another student has followed Lamperta around campus and been insulting and harassing.

“I’ve stopped reporting it, because nothing’s been getting done,” Lamperta said.

Lamperta’s mother, Ruth Mattson, said every time an issue has arisen at school, she has had to step in because administrators did not properly handle the matter.


“I used to say I’d like to go back to high school, like you had no responsibilities,” Mattson said. “I would not step foot into a high school today, given the experiences that I’m dealing with secondhand.”

Bowers, the principal, said he and other administrators created student and parent focus groups to meet with students and parents to get feedback on the environment at the school. He also said he hopes to do an equity audit, to allow an outside perspective on classroom materials and discussions.

Reid said it all comes down to treating people equally.

“Actually listen to kids when they’re showing proof and signs of being bullied or harassed,” she said.

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