Maine School Administrative District 75’s Policy Committee experienced pushback and hostility from parents while making alterations to its first-ever policy regarding transgender students at a meeting Wednesday evening.

Serving the communities of Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harpswell and Topsham, SAD 75 joins the ranks of several Maine school districts that have already adopted policies to protect transgender and gender-expansive students’ rights — other districts with active policies include Portland, York and Yarmouth.

Policy Committee member Mike Timberlake said they have been working on revising a sample policy provided by the Maine School Management Association since February. He said the committee has taken the responsibility seriously and weighed the thoughts and opinions of mental health professionals, administrators, parents and transgender individuals.

The new policy is intended to foster a safe learning environment free from discrimination, harassment and bullying, and to assist the educational and social integration of transgender and gender-expansive students, according to the MSMA.

Members of the group Parents Rights in Education attended the Wednesday meeting to vocalize concerns about the school concealing a student’s new gender identity from parents or legal guardians.

Former SAD 75 school board member Eric Lusk disagreed with the wording of the sample policy, claiming it would endanger children by allowing the school to hide a student’s newfound gender identity from parents.


“Kids who go down the LGBTQ track are more at risk of self-harm, so why would you want to conceal that?” Lusk said.

Bowdoinham parent Craig Caffrey said the policy was “garbage.”

“Just because we don’t believe in their pronouns or whatever else is on social media, you are alienating parents,” Caffrey said.

According to the American Medical Association, a study done in 2018 by the Journal of Adolescent Health found transgender youth who could use accurate names and pronouns experienced 71% fewer symptoms of severe depression, a 34% drop in suicidal thoughts and a 65% decrease in suicide attempts.

Lewiston Next STEP teacher River Khoriaty said they agreed with a policy that would protect the privacy of transgender students. Being transgender and an educator, Khoriaty said they have witnessed firsthand that not all students come from “accepting homes.”

“The policy should not forcibly out children to their parents but create a safe space for them to talk,” Khoriaty said.


Jim Burn of Topsham agreed that the school system should create a safe space for all students.

“I support this policy as is,” Burn said. “If I had a child who felt uncomfortable talking to me about their identity, I would hope they’d feel comfortable speaking with a trusted authority figure at school.”

After two hours of discussion, the committee agreed to adopt verbiage from the Yarmouth School District’s policy (see sidebar). Timberlake said the final draft of this policy will be sent to the SAD 75 board to be discussed Sept. 14, and a final vote will take place on Sept. 28.

“The goal is to provide students, parents, teachers, administrators, support staff and all other employees of the district clear guidance on how MSAD 75 will support students who wish to affirm their gender identity within the school system,” said school board Chairperson Hutson Hayward. “Transgender and gender-nonconforming students are already a part of our schools, and have been for some time, and it is important for the district to provide guidelines and courses of action for everyone to understand and trust.”

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