CAPE ELIZABETH — The Town Council is poised to consider a resolution Monday aimed at “welcoming people of every race, religion, nationality, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation into our community.”

Councilor Sara Lennon developed the proposal with a newly formed community group, the Cape Diversity Coalition, after insensitive and politically charged comments were made about Muslim students following President Trump’s election.

The proposal also follows a potluck supper that was held Sunday at the high school, where community members were encouraged to bring dishes reflecting their ethnic backgrounds and share family stories.

Lennon emphasized that the resolution isn’t meant to be partisan and that bigotry isn’t a major problem in Cape schools, but she and others believe the council should take a stand and set a tone for inclusiveness.

“The schools are already moving ahead with their initiatives,” Lennon said. “This should be a townwide effort. How can we expect our kids to be their best selves when the adults remain silent?”

Lennon noted that the proposed resolution follows similar actions taken recently in South Portland and Westbrook.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “Why be last?”

Concern about bigotry, racism and intolerance cropped up in Cape Elizabeth following President Trump’s election last November, when insensitive and possibly threatening comments were made about the handful of Muslim students who attend the town’s elementary, middle and high schools.

School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres and Interim Superintendent Howard Colter sent an email Nov. 10 encouraging unity and respect in the school community.

“No matter where we fall as individuals on the political spectrum, as a school community we are neutral,” the email stated. “Our role, as it is every day, is to make sure our students feel welcomed, safe, comfortable, and supported in our schools. Our hope is that parents and guardians will continue to engage their children in conversations around the larger issues raised during the national campaign. At school, we will continue to emphasize and model our traditions of unity, respect, and collaboration with all of our students. We ask for your support to underscore these values.”


Scifres and Colter sent a follow-up email Nov. 16 that provided a bit more information.

“Over the past several days we have learned of three isolated allegations of threatening remarks,” the email stated. “Each case is being taken seriously and is in the process of being investigated. While there may be justification and good reason to discipline a student, our larger goal is to educate and broaden the thinking and exposure of all our students to different people, religions, ideas, and cultures. The silver lining is that we’ve been given an opportunity to improve and enrich, and we are going to seize it.”

In his email invitation to last Sunday’s Bridges potluck supper, Principal Jeffrey Shedd urged families of high school students to recognize that “more unites us than divides us” in the wake of most U.S. presidential elections.

“Yet something seems different this year,” Shedd wrote. “There is a sense that we are more polarized than ever. Many refugees and immigrants are afraid and feel less than welcome.”

At the same time, Shedd noted, on prominent college campuses, “speakers who bring controversial, unpopular, often conservative ideas have been drowned out by protesters or forced out through violence. Increasingly, we seem to react to one another without ever getting to know one another. We form judgments before listening.”

Even in Cape Elizabeth, Shedd wrote, “there has been intolerant talk, particularly on social media, from both sides of the political divide. In some cases, speech happens first; thinking, if it happens, comes later.”


Lennon said the council resolution to be considered Monday makes it clear that everyone is welcome in the affluent seaside town of 9,157 people. While mostly white, historically Christian and largely liberal, the town includes people of various races, faiths, ethnicities, political beliefs and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“And some people would like to see more diversity in Cape Elizabeth,” Lennon said.

The resolution notes that “the United States of America has long stood as a haven for immigrants persecuted in other lands seeking liberty and the right to practice religion as they choose.”

It also says that “foreign-born residents richly contribute to the quality of life in Cape Elizabeth, as do people of many faiths.”

The resolution explains that the council has “a leadership responsibility to speak out against discrimination, intolerance, violence or hate.”

“It’s intended to be a proactive and affirmative statement of our community values,” said Town Council Chairman Jamie Garvin.

The document specifically condemns actions of hate, violence or discrimination directed toward immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers or any persons targeted for their religion, ethnicity, race, nationality, gender, immigration status or sexual orientation.

The resolution “welcomes residents of all cultures and faiths, celebrates the benefits of a pluralistic society, and defends the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their identity, culture and faith without fear.”

“Anyone targeted on the basis of nationality, religion, race, ethnicity, gender, immigration status or sexual orientation should be able to turn to the town’s officials for protection without fear of retribution,” the resolution states.

It also “encourages forums where civil and respectful dialogue may take place to promote better understanding.”