Richmond residents gather in the Richmond Middle School and High School cafeteria Thursday to hear the Richmond School Board debate the district’s transgender student policies. Anna Chadwick/Morning Sentinel

RICHMOND — A divided Richmond School Board will move forward with a policy that requires parental involvement in decisions made by transgender students about their gender expression and identity while at school.

Richmond School Board members Liana Knight and Russ Hughes each proposed different policies based on the Maine School Management Association’s model policy regarding transgender and gender expansive students and presented them to the board Thursday night for review.

Hughes’s version of the policy — which mandates parental involvement in student decisions about using a different name or pronoun — was approved 3-2 by the board on its first reading, with Chair Amanda McDaniel, Hughes and John Pratte in favor of the policy and Knight and Nicole Tuttle against it.

The three board members in favor of the policy drafted by Hughes said they believe parents should be involved in a student’s decision to use a different name, use different pronouns, or use the bathroom that aligns with the gender they identify with.

Knight and Tuttle, however, supported a different perspective.

“What I was aiming for with the policy I created was a little ambiguity, some wiggle room to figure it out on a case-by-case basis rather than, ‘All parents must know at all times,’ because we can’t sit here knowing what every individual’s circumstance is going to be,” Knight said.


The Maine School Management Association policy serves as a guide to school districts and as a protection for students. It does not require school administration to tell a student’s parents if a student wishes to go by a different name or pronouns while at school, and the policy allows transgender students to use the bathroom and locker room they closely identify with.

School boards across central Maine have debated policies centered on transgender students, parental involvement, and the students’ use of bathroom facilities.

A school policy must be approved by the board on a first and second reading before it becomes official . The policy approved Thursday night will go back to the policy committee for further edits to add specific information pertaining to parental involvement.

Steve Bailey, director of Maine School Management Association, said the association does not track which schools make changes to the policy. The association’s model policies are crafted with its legal team, and Bailey advises all school districts to consult with their attorneys if any changes are made.

“We want to make sure that local school boards are doing the kind of work to make sure they are checking with their school attorney to make sure they are abiding by the intent of the law and what it states,” Bailey said.

During the public comment period at Thursday’s school board meeting, parents and community members expressed divided views on the policy. Some parents wanted to require parent involvement, but others agreed with Knight’s perspective that not all families would be accepting if their child pursued a different gender identity.


Hughes said his stance is to to have parental involvement and to protect the rights of students who might be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with transgender students. He wants the uncomfortable students to have access to a private restroom.

We are not Brunswick, we are not Augusta or Hallowell. We got out of Regional School Unit 2 so we could run our schools the way we see fit, and just because all the other towns around us have a more extreme policy doesn’t mean we have to,” he said.

Brian York, a former teacher at Richmond High School and now the assistant principal at Cony High School, was one of the community members who spoke during the public comment period and reminded the public that the school must follow The Maine Human Rights Act, or risk a lawsuit.

York passed out papers to the audience with the information he referenced, namely, the Maine Human Rights Act, that states: “The opportunity for every individual to have equal access to places of public accommodation without discrimination because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry or national origin is recognized as and declared to be a civil right.”

Interim Superintendent Bob Webster advised the board to vote in favor of a policy that included parents in the gender discussion with their children.

“My recommendation is to not approve a policy that provides a provision to fail to inform a parent until Maine courts rule on that,” Webster said. “I think the prudent thing to do is have it in policy.”

The policy will have a second reading at a future meeting before it becomes final.

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