Rosa Slack

The school district for the towns of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel has reached a settlement with a former teacher who filed a complaint last year alleging that she was retaliated against for expressing concerns about two incidents of racism.

The RSU 21 Board of Directors met in executive session last week and then voted Monday to approve the settlement with former high school social studies teacher Rosa Slack.

Acting RSU 21 Superintendent Phil Potenziano confirmed the vote Wednesday but said he couldn’t say much beyond the statement read by school board chair Emily Kahn on Monday after the vote.

“The school board is pleased to announce that it has reached a mutually accepted resolution of the claim brought by Ms. Slack against the school district,” she said. “The school board believes that an early resolution of this claim is in the best interest of the school district as it will enable the district to focus on its work with the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium and the Maine intercultural communications consultants, and the ongoing independent investigation.”

The terms of the settlement were not made public.

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Slack said she “wasn’t prepared to comment yet” on the settlement and referred questions to her attorney, Max Brooks. He did not immediately return a message from a reporter on Wednesday.


In her January 2018 complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission, Slack, who was then one of two black teachers at Kennebunk High School, alleged that she was retaliated against during her annual review process after she reported two race-based threats by students during the 2015-16 school year.

She said that fall, 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 yearslong conflict between Slack and local administrators.

“(Slack) made multiple attempts to get the administration to agree to provide meaningful, student-bodywide anti-bias training. They turned her down every time,” her attorney told the Press Herald earlier this year. “The administration’s failure to take effective steps to prevent additional racial harassment is why Rosa is standing up now for what’s right – so that future Kennebunk High School students and teachers and staff are kept safe from degrading racial harassment.”

Slack filed her complaint while still employed at the high school but has since left that job for a position at Portland High School

The Press Herald reported about Slack’s complaint and broader community concerns in February, which prompted the RSU to hold a special board meeting where students, former teachers, parents and residents 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 potentially racist incidents. That review is pending but officials hope it will help equity, diversity and inclusion in the schools and community.

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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