It was standing room only at a May 25 meeting of the Gorham School Committee following three formal complaints made against Superintendent Heather Perry. At left is Andrew LaPlaca, one of the complainants. At right is parent Eric Lane, with water bottle, who made the original complaint. Robert Lowell / American Journal

The controversy surrounding the Gorham superintendent and a parent who wants gender posters removed from a middle school classroom packed a School Committee meeting May 25.

Two uniformed Gorham police officers and an attorney sat beside committee Chairperson Anne Schools as she outlined the committee’s policies for members of the public who wished to speak. Superintendent Heather Perry was also present.

Urging respect, Schools said speakers were not allowed to reference specific names or titles.

“A Public Participation Informational Pamphlet for Gorham School Committee” was placed at each seat. It states: “No complaints or allegations will be allowed in public concerning any student, staff member or any individual person connected to the school system.”

“Let’s keep it fair,” Schools said.

Parent Eric Lane’s request that these posters be removed from a Gorham Middle School classroom was denied. Contributed / Eric Lane

The meeting followed three formal complaints filed against Superintendent Heather Perry over an email she sent to members of a committee April 20 before it met to consider the parent’s request to remove the posters or include opposing viewpoints. The posters feature terminology that includes cisgender, transgender and nonbinary.


“We need to use as many rungs in the ladder as possible to slow the process down to ensure this parent has to work a little on their end as well,” Perry’s email to the staff members reads in part.

Parent Eric Lane’s request was denied April 26.

Lane on May 25 reminded School Committee members that they took an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Without naming Perry or her position, he reiterated his call that she be fired. His formal complaint seeks Perry’s dismissal, saying she and the school department discriminated against him because of his religious values.

Alluding to what he described as the recent “infamous” email, he said, “Imagine for a moment what it must have been like to get an email from your superior asking you to commit a crime by conspiring to violate someone else’s First Amendment rights.”

“I call for a resignation today, otherwise you must uphold your oath,” Lane told the board.

While one speaker called the email a red flag, much of the public comment shifted from the email to the gender posters.


The Rev. Christine Dyke, lead pastor at the First Parish Congregational Church in Gorham, said objections to the posters were disturbing.

“Freedom of religion and freedom of the exercise of it does not include eliminating what a person finds objectionable on religious grounds from public settings when the content does not support a specific religion,” Dyke said.

“It is not a public institution’s responsibility to teach a child only what the parents want them to learn,” she said.

Neile Nelson, a Gorham High School math teacher, said the best thing she’s done as a parent was to “step away” and trust teachers, administrators and those in charge of the school district.

“It’s OK that I don’t agree with them all the time, but snowplowing the way to try to force the hand on my beliefs does not have a place in public education,” Nelson said.

Melissa Spicer, mother of three students, said what some consider education materials are not considered educational to others. Every child should be supported, she said, but she asked Gorham school officials to scale back what “you are pushing on our children – and you are pushing it.”


Another parent, Andrew LaPlaca, who filed one of the three written complaints against Perry, was halted from reading excerpts from a Gorham High School library book about gay youth, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George Matthew Johnson. LaPlaca says the book is porn.

After consulting briefly with lawyer Peter Felmly of the Drummond Woodsum law firm, Schools denied the reading.

“I don’t know the ages of children watching,” Schools said, referring to the meeting audience. She suggested comments could be emailed to the board.

LaPlaca asked, “If I’m not allowed to read this book to the School Committee, then why is it available to children?”

The committee made no comments in response to the public comments. The purpose of the hearing was for them to listen, Schools said at the start of the meeting.

After the public comment period ended, the board held two executive sessions with Felmly. The two private meetings were to “consider the legal rights and duties of the School Committee” and to discuss a personnel matter.







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