School officials and police in Kennebunk are investigating a video taken last week that appeared to show both underage drinking and the repeated use of a racial slur by one high school student.

The incident occurred on the same week the RSU 21 board of directors settled a complaint with a former high school teacher who claimed she was retaliated against for raising concerns about how the district handled two racist incidents.

The 10-second video, featuring two female students, was sent to the Portland Press Herald by a classmate. Acting RSU 21 Superintendent Phil Potenziano referenced the video in a letter to community members Friday.

“I wanted to make you aware that an incident of disturbing student behavior recently occurred off school grounds and outside of the school day,” the letter read. “A portion of the event was posted to social media and included language that I would characterize as hate speech. Because of the potential disruption that it may have in our schools – even during summer – I feel we have to respond and thus the administration has swiftly begun an investigation.”

Potenziano wrote that local police have been notified, and Lt. Eric O’Brien of the Kennebunk Police Department said Monday that his office is investigating.

“We’re still interviewing people to determine whether any charges would be appropriate,” O’Brien said.


The incident happened outside of school, and the school year has now ended, so it’s not clear if or how the students would be disciplined.

“Since it was brought to the administration’s attention we are investigating,” Potenziano said in an email to the newspaper Monday. “Student safety and student confidentiality is paramount and as such my statement stands, therefore I will not be providing any further details.”

In the video, two teenage girls who appear to be intoxicated are facing the camera, selfie-style. One of the girls can be heard repeating different variations of a common racial slur. The video ends with the other girl laughing and saying, “we need more (expletive) shots.”

The video was taken at a party attended by Kennebunk High School students last week. Although there is no time stamp on the video, Pontenziano said officials believe that the incident occurred during the school year, which ended on Wednesday. The video was taken using SnapChat, a social media app that allows users to record and share short videos which then disappear after they are watched. Videos can still be saved, however.

The newspaper tried to contact the families of the two girls shown in the video and also the household where the party was alleged to have occurred. At a number listed for one of the girls in the video, a young woman answered the phone Monday afternoon and then hung up after a reporter identified himself.

The incident happened during the same week the district was hoping to move past a series of racist incidents that led to a Maine Human Rights Commission complaint and settlement with former high school social studies teacher Rosa Slack.


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.

RSU paid $50,000 to settle that complaint and also agreed to amend Slack’s employee evaluation. Both Slack and school district officials commended the steps RSU 21 has undertaken to improve the dialogue around race, equity and inclusion. Part of that has been working with the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, an organization that assists educators on improving dialogue around race, equity and inclusion.

Kennebunk High School has about two dozen black or multiracial students, out of a total enrollment of 710 students, or about 3 percent. Statewide, about 6 percent of all students are black or biracial, or just over 11,000 students out of about 180,500 students.

The district also is in the middle of an independent investigation of the incidents cited by Slack that could wrap up by the fall. Potenziano, in his letter to community members, said the recent incident underscores the need to make changes.

“There are many champions within RSU 21 who are making a difference already and are committed to further changes,” he said. “I, along with the school board, have stated we are unwavering in our commitment to institutional change and feel we have implemented an initial plan of action that demonstrates it.

“I have heard from some who want to go slower, and from those of you who want to see faster change. No matter where your commitment resides, I promise you the changes will be meaningful.”

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