At the Dec. 6 Gorham Town Council Meeting, the Gorham School Committee’s chairperson, Darryl Wright, presented his monthly report. Of note, Chairperson Wright told the council that the budget line for the school department’s annual legal expenses had been exceeded this year. He said that at the current rate at which the committee has required legal counsel, it will spend between $150,000 and $160,000 this year alone. Councilperson Virginia Wilder Cross asked what was causing the need for legal counsel, and Chairperson Wright was gracious in his reply, noting an increase in questions from parents. But the truth is much more sinister.

All Gorham citizens should be asking the same question that Councilperson Wilder Cross raised, and they should be outraged by the politicized, misguided and frivolous attacks that Gorham School Department and school employees have been under for well over a year.

There have been repeated demands that books be removed from the high school library, posters be removed from the walls of the middle school health classrooms, and there have been baseless and defamatory allegations and innuendo, both on social media and through a formal complaint process, against school administrators, school staff and even a school committee member. Because these educators acknowledge the existence and basic human rights of the LGBTQ+ community, they have been called “groomers,” “communists” and worse. With zero evidence and even less creativity, the processes that are in place by law to ensure parents have a role in the oversight of the schools have been hijacked as part of a national political attempt to destabilize public education for all.

There have been 34 Freedom of Access Act requests for documents, emails and lesson plans just since the start of this school year. These requests are publicly posted on the Gorham School Department website, and I would urge people to take the time to review them and understand what is being requested under the guise of “right to know” and by whom.

With few exceptions, they are copycat demands to those seen across our state and the nation. They are not the legitimate requests for information of a parent with an educational interest, but rather part of a witch hunt and fear campaign that is reminiscent of the McCarthy era. To be clear, some of our best educators are under attack for simply respecting and welcoming marginalized humans in their classrooms.

While these attacks are not unique, they are unprecedented for most education institutions. Educators are not trained to face political attacks such as they are seeing. Rather, they are trained and required by law to provide a safe and welcoming place for the education of all students, regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender identity. Because Gorham Schools work hard to be transparent, responsive and professional, even in a politicized firestorm, they have wisely used legal counsel to ensure that they are following all procedures and laws as they address these baseless complaints and demands.

Those who wish to make political theater out of our Gorham schools are wasting the time, money and attention that are better used, and certainly more needed, for our children. We need to demand a stop to this attempt to breed hate and mistrust in our community and reject the fake allegations against school staff. It has no place in our town or our state. I urge all Maine residents and elected officials to make their support and appreciation of their school departments known, and to stand with the administrators and teachers who create daily miracles for our children. Email members of your School Committee and Town Council, send a “thank you” to a teacher, and share your support and appreciation through positive stories on social media.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.