School district takes ‘decisive action’

To the editor,

Four years ago, RSU 21 was in crisis after a student exhibited racist behavior in our schools, including directing that toward an African American teacher. District administration was made aware, but did little at the time. The school board was eventually made aware, but did little, relying on administration to resolve. Slowly – too slowly – things began to change. The community said “this isn’t right.” The board listened and vowed to do better. New administration and a few new board members came in with a renewed focus.

Many of you may remember all of this. I certainly remember it well as I was on the school board. I care deeply about our schools and community and have spent years focusing on this change. But I couldn’t help thinking, have things really grown and changed? What if there is a next time? Will things be ignored, obfuscated, and softened? Or will there be quick and decisive action with a resounding “Not in our community. No way!”

Well, without a doubt that question was answered last week – and even more remarkably, it had to do with one of their own. According to a letter from Superintendent Dr. Terri Cooper and the RSU 21 Board of Directors: “We are aware of disturbing and offensive posts made online by a sitting school board director. The posts on Twitter were hateful toward transgender people, people of color, and women. … We will not allow members of our community to be targeted by or subjected to bigotry. … Bigotry and hatred have no place in our school community.”

And this was all done within two days of the board first learning of the issue and just hours after their meeting. No dragging of feet. No fluffy “we are looking into it.” No equivocation. Just strength. Just truth.


Former RSU 21 Director Ryan McQueen resigned the very next day.

It is important to know that none of this would have been possible without the courage of Sarah Lynn, the person who first brought the hateful online postings to the board’s attention. I do not know Sarah, but I can only imagine how gut wrenching this has been for her. Going before an executive session of the board is intimidating under any circumstance, but in this case, it had to do with one of their own directors. Would she be believed or even listened to? And when her story was all over Facebook and the newspapers, did she then have to worry about retribution or even her own safety? But she had the courage to come forward and speak the truth. Sarah, I applaud you. I honor you. And I absolutely know this community has your back.

Lastly, to Superintendent Cooper and the remaining members of the RSU 21 School Board, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Platitudes are easy. But action, under the most difficult of circumstances, is another thing altogether. While, there may always be hate in our world, and yes, even in our community, your decisive action and unequivocal stance are what true leadership is all about. And at the end of the day, that is the very best lesson you can ever teach our kids.

So, has RSU 21 administration, school board, and our community, truly grown over the last four years? You bet it has!

Matt Fadiman


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