Shawn McBreairty of Cumberland shows Fox News’ Tucker Carlson a sign urging the SAD 51 superintendent’s ouster. Still image from Fox News video

A Cumberland resident who has tangled with SAD 51 officials for the last year appeared on the Fox News show “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Thursday and said he didn’t know whether he would be allowed to attend his twin daughters’ high school graduation because of his opposition to the district’s teachings on racial equity.

By Friday, however, Shawn McBreairty told the Press Herald that he indeed plans to attend Greely High School’s graduation on June 6 under conditions outlined by Superintendent Jeff Porter and set forth in a criminal trespass order police issued to McBreairty on May 15.

“Yes, I fully plan on attending my daughters’ graduation and there’s no reason any parent or student should be concerned about safety,” McBreairty said in a phone interview Friday. “I can assure all students and faculty there will not be a problem from my side.”

McBreairty, however, will not be allowed to attend his daughters’ final band concert on Tuesday.

(The concert) didn’t rise to  the same level,” Porter said Friday. “The graduation, in my head, is one thing. He has a criminal trespass order at this point. If I say yes to everything, I’m not sure of the point of that order.”

Porter said McBreairty was never banned from attending graduation, just from being on campus. “That would have included graduation,” Porter said, “but he could request to attend school events on a case-by-case basis.”

McBreairty asked to attend graduation and Porter granted approval “earlier this week,” according to a statement issued by district officials Thursday night. Porter said the only expectations he has of McBreairty attending the event are “the same expectations that everyone else has to follow. We just don’t want him to be disruptive at his kids’ graduation.”

The criminal trespass order against McBreairty prohibits him from entering or remaining on the property of all SAD 51 schools and properties unless he has permission from Porter.

Shawn McBreairty, taking aim at SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter, recently placed “Fire Porter” signs throughout the district. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Porter said the order was issued after McBreairty repeatedly violated district rules and after multiple warnings about padlocking a sign to a school fence. Porter also said that McBreairty had disrupted several school board meetings and had distributed flyers on the desks of Greely students without permission. “It was a series of things,” Porter said.

McBreairty says he is being persecuted because of his persistent criticism of racial equity teachings in the district. He has been especially critical of Porter’s handling of the situation, recently placing “Fire Porter” signs throughout the district.

On his way home from his appearance on the Tucker Carlson show Thursday night, McBreairty said he and his wife decided to remove all the “Fire Porter” signs around Cumberland and North Yarmouth. They are now in the back of his pickup truck, he said.

“Frankly, I was giving out a little olive branch,” McBreairty said.

McBreairty’s appearance on the conservative Fox News show was set up by a national organization called “No Left Turn in Education.” McBreairty is the chapter leader for Maine. He said he met Carlson at “an undisclosed location.”

McBreairty told Carlson that Porter had sent him some “word salad” saying that “if I met some conditions he might let me go to graduation,” but it was “still up in the air.”

“I pushed back a couple of times on that because, frankly, I don’t think there should be conditions set to me going to graduation,” McBreairty told Carlson. “I don’t know if (Porter) wants me to stand on one leg and rub my belly the whole time. I have no idea what these conditions are.”

Minutes after the show ended, district officials emailed a letter to the school community stating: “After reviewing the individual’s request to attend graduation, approval was granted earlier this week, with expectations forthcoming. Though the district has reason to limit this individual’s attendance at school-related events, the importance of graduation in the life of a family was the overriding factor in making an exception in this case.”

McBreairty has been a vocal critic of Porter and the school board since last summer, when the district sent a letter to the community that commented on the death of George Floyd and outlined its work with a firm it hired in 2019 to conduct anti-racism training. Tensions escalated to the point that some board members said they felt unsafe.

In March, McBreairty filed a lawsuit against Porter, SAD 51 Finance Director Scott Poulin and School Board Chair Tyler McGinley charging that they have failed to provide documents he requested in February 2020 under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act showing all taxpayer money spent in 2019 or 2020 on professional development involving systemic racism training.

McBreairty said Friday that following his appearance on Carlson’s show, he received “so much positive overwhelming support” from people throughout the country.

“It was incredible,” said McBreairty, who urged residents to go to school board meetings and encouraged those in SAD 51 to “get out and vote” on June 8, when several board seats are on the ballot.

“Use your voice,” he said.

A petition drive to remove four Cumberland representatives from the regional school board failed to gather enough signatures to get on the June 8 ballot. The unsuccessful initiative was the latest chapter in community turmoil over when School Administrative District 51 should resume full-time classroom instruction and whether Porter is doing a good job leading the district, which includes neighboring North Yarmouth.

Porter also said the school district had received many phone calls and messages since McBreairty’s appearance on Carlson’s show.

“We received some interesting emails and phone calls from people across the country calling to crank at us,” he said. “In our community, the response has been positive to the statement we sent out.”

U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Greely as Maine’s top high school for the second year in a row.

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