AUGUSTA — In a polarizing vote, the Augusta Board of Education rejected a policy aimed at fostering a safe learning environment for transgender and gender expansive students.

The proposed policy would have required school staff to use students’ chosen names and pronouns, allowed students to use the restrooms and locker rooms that most closely match their gender identity and enabled affected students to work with their teachers to create education plans suited to their needs.

It would have also prohibited administrators from discussing a student’s gender identity with their parents without first notifying the student, in order “to avoid inadvertently putting the student at risk” if they have not come out to their family. 

The board deadlocked in a 3-3 vote during the first reading of the policy at Wednesday night’s meeting, with James Orr, Kati McCormick and Pia Holmes opposing it and Rita Pello, Kimberly Martin and Kevin Lamoreau in favor of it.

Board Chair Martha Witham, who votes only when a tie must be broken, then voted against the policy, effectively killing it.

Since the policy did not pass its first reading, it cannot be brought back to the board unless someone who voted against it decides to reintroduce it.


Opponents of the policy said they voted against it because it was “not ready to be a policy yet,” but Martin said in a tearful testimony that the board had “plenty” of time to review the document.

The Maine School Management Association introduced the policy in October 2022 and it was brought to the Augusta Board of Education’s three-person policy subcommittee in January, Martin said. The board had about four opportunities to discuss the proposed rules, she said, and officials heard numerous times from students, faculty and members of the youth-focused nonprofit OUT Maine about why they are needed.

“We had the (Gay, Straight, Transgender Student Alliance) advisor and students come to the meeting, and they made it known that it was a policy that was needed and that transgender students and the LGBTQ+ community did not always feel safe,” Martin said Wednesday night.

The Augusta board had barely modified the language from the model policy supplied by the Maine School Management Association.

The same policy — called “ACAAA Transgender and Gender Expansive Students” — has been adopted in a number of central Maine schools, including Hallowell-based Regional School unit 2 and Gardiner-area Maine School Administrative Unit 11. Farmington-based Regional School Unit 9 adopted it just last week.

The Maine School Management Association states that school districts are not legally required to adopt a board-level policy on transgender and gender expansive students and that they can adopt the rules as guidelines instead, since each student’s situation will be different and require a different approach.


According to OUT Maine, around 25% of Maine teenagers identify as LGBTQ+ and the Augusta School Department has around 2,100 students.

Holmes, one of the board members who voted against the policy, said she does not have a problem with its content, but called it a “guideline” that is “not ready to be a policy.”

McCormick and Witham agreed with her, as did Lamoreau, though the latter voted in favor of advancing the policy to a second reading. Orr said he is against the content and policy as a whole.

“There are verbs in there that say, ‘should’ instead of ‘will’ or ‘must,’ and as an administrator, looking at this, it would be hard to deal with it as a set policy, but if it’s set as a guideline, there is more flexibility for students. It’s great information, but to call it a policy or guidance is premature,” Holmes said. 

Assistant Superintendent Mike Tracy Jr. Shared with the board the survey results from community members and said that out of 22 responses, 15 of which were parents, 13 against the policy, seven people voted in favor and two were unsure. The administrators did not share their thoughts on the policy at Wednesday night’s board meeting.

“I’m sad for these students who just need to feel seen and safe,” said Martin, tearfully. “And obviously this is the way voting works, and that’s OK, but I just need to say that.”

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