A York County school district paid $50,000 to settle a discrimination complaint by a former teacher and also agreed to amend her employee evaluation from two years ago.

The board of directors for RSU 21, which serves the towns of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel, voted this week to approve the settlement with former Kennebunk High School social studies teacher Rosa Slack.

The five-page settlement agreement was released Thursday.

Slack filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in January 2018 alleging that she was retaliated against for expressing concerns about two racist incidents.

Rosa Slack left her teaching job at Kennebunk High School in 2018 after experiencing troubling incidents and a muted response to them by the district. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

She said that in the fall of 2015, a student in one of her classes told an education technician he felt like burning Slack’s house down, and the district took no action other than removing the student from her class. Then, in March 2016, Slack said a friend of that student walked into her history class with a Confederate flag draped over his back, the word “Redneck” written down the center of it, as another student filmed her reaction.

The two boys were suspended, but the event cascaded into a drawn-out conflict with local administrators.

The $50,000 payment includes $40,000 in attorneys’ fees and $10,000 in compensatory damages. It will be paid out by the district’s insurer. Slack did not return a message from a reporter Thursday, but she had previously told the Portland Press Herald that the complaint wasn’t about money, but about doing the right thing.

This week, Slack said through her attorney that she was encouraged by other provisions of the settlement, particularly that the district will work with the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, an organization that assists educators on improving dialogue around race, equity and inclusion.

Slack, who now teaches at Portland High School, said she plans to continue cooperating on an independent investigation of the claims she raised, which is ongoing.

“The outpouring of support I’ve received from the community, including many current students at KHS, has been amazing. That gives me hope for the future.”

Emily Kahn, who chairs the RSU 21 board of directors, also did not return a message Thursday. However, in a statement she read after the board voted to accept the agreement, she praised the settlement and also drew attention to the steps the district has taken over the last several months.

The settlement clears the district of any liability and stipulates that Slack will dismiss her complaint with the human rights commission and not file any future claims.

It also includes a confidentiality clause, which is common, saying that both Slack and RSU 21 officials “will not publicly discuss the terms of this settlement except to say that the matter has been resolved to their mutual satisfaction.”

The change in Slack’s evaluation for the 2016-17 school year deletes two sentences about Slack’s concerns about how the district handled the situations in question. It also changes some numerical scores that improved her overall score to “distinguished.”

The Press Herald reported about Slack’s complaint and broader concerns in February, which prompted the RSU to hold a special board meeting where students, former teachers, parents and community members called for answers, action, and accountability from the superintendent and school board.

A month later the RSU 21 board authorized an independent investigation into the district’s handling of racist incidents. That review is pending but officials hope it will help promote equity, diversity and inclusion in the schools and community.

One biracial family moved out of Kennebunk because of the harassment they say their daughter experienced. Another high school teacher says she left the district because of her disgust over how the administration responded to the problems cited by Slack.

The superintendent who presided over the controversy also has left the district. Last week, Kathryn Hawes announced that she was stepping down to take a job at the University of Southern Maine.

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