A Brewer High School student and her father are suing the district, the superintendent, a principal and an English teacher, alleging that they violated her rights when they told her that a petition she and a classmate circulated regarding the district’s transgender policy could be considered hate speech.

The student, who is only identified by her initials, H.W., and her classmate, C.G., “support full civil rights, civil liberties, and equal treatment for all persons, whatever their gender identity,” the lawsuit states. “However H.W. and C.G. have safety and privacy concerns when it comes to private spaces and the fact that some people take advantage of openness in the form of permissive bathroom policies in order to sexually assault girls.”

The students had circulated a petition calling for the school to reverse its policy that allows transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

According to the complaint, Michelle MacDonald, an English teacher at the school, and Brewer High School Principal Brent Slowikowski told the students the petition could be considered a hate crime and ordered them to stop circulating it. 

The lawsuit was filed in federal court on Wednesday by the Randazza Legal Group, a Nevada-based firm that specializes in First Amendment law. Marc Randazza, lead counsel on the case, is a well-known First Amendment lawyer who has represented controversial figures, including Alex Jones, who falsely claimed the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26 in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax, and Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer.

H.W.’s father, Phil Wells, who filed the lawsuit on her behalf, is asking the court to order the school district to pay their attorney fees and expenses and damages. Wells also is requesting that the district provide injunctive relief and declare the petition lawful, constitutionally protected, not a hate crime, and not a violation of any policies.


This is not the first time Brewer-area schools have been caught up in legal battles over transgender rights in bathrooms.

In 2014, an Orono student prevailed in a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling that found her rights were violated when school administrators made her use a staff bathroom at her elementary school instead of the girls’ restroom.

MacDonald, the English teacher, also filed a lawsuit against the district in 2022 alleging she was discriminated against because of her advocacy for LGBTQ students. That lawsuit was dropped in 2023, according to court records. The Maine Human Rights Commission concluded in July 2020 that MacDonald did face “discrimination and retaliation” from the school department.

MacDonald could not be reached Thursday to discuss her lawsuit or the student’s allegations.

According to Wednesday’s lawsuit, H.W. became concerned about her safety after learning that a transgender female was using the women’s bathroom. The complaint references an incident in Virginia in which a girl was sexually assaulted by a boy using the girl’s bathroom. H.W. and C.G. subsequently circulated the petition.

“We want to bring awareness to the fact that women’s and men’s public spaces should be biologically separated, it’s about the privacy and restrictions that need to be upheld for both men and women, things such as bathrooms, locker rooms, sports, and types of changing areas or sanitary stations should all be based on whether you are a biological girl or boy,” the petition states.


The lawsuit says the petition was signed by “many students,” including the transgender student they were concerned was using the bathroom. The lawsuit claims the transgender student, who was not named, “expressed delight” at the petition. It does not say how many students signed the petition nor does it provide proof of the transgender student’s support.

The lawsuit alleges that MacDonald told C.G. that she and H.W. would be charged with a hate crime if they continued to try to collect signatures, that Slowikowski, the principal, told them the petition was hate speech and that Brewer School District Superintendent Gregg Palmer said that he would not tolerate the students circulating the petition.

Palmer declined to answer questions from the Press Herald about the lawsuit.

“Given the pendency of the lawsuit I think it best that we decline to comment at this time,” he said. He expected the district’s attorneys to file a response on Friday.

Slowikowski did not respond to emails from the Press Herald asking to discuss the lawsuit.

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