School Resources in Maine

Schools are meant to be student-centered places where young people are safe and can learn what they need to succeed in life. Yet, extremist politicians and well-funded national groups are trying to make public schools and school libraries a site of attacks on LGBTQ+ people, especially youth, and families. 

But youth in Maine public schools have rights, and our schools have a responsibility to ensure all students, including LGBTQ+ students, are safe, supported, and able to learn. GLAD and our partners are sharing these resources on your rights as a student, parent, and educator.

Find national resources and organizations here.

Maine Resources

Know Your Rights

Nondiscrimination: Maine General Laws prohibit discrimination in educational programs, opportunities and other matters based on gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, and perceived sexual orientation in Maine public schools. You can read more under GL 5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4602  

Anti-Bullying: Maine has one strong anti-bullying law with strict requirements that schools must follow to protect students from a wide variety of bullying, be it physical, verbal, or online.  

Guidance for Schools: The Maine Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has created a set of eight principles and practices to support LGBTQ youth in schools at Foundational Practices to Support LGBTQ+ Students.    

Learn more about youth rights in Maine on the following Know Your Rights pages

What to do if you or your child is experiencing bullying, discrimination, or mistreatment in school 

If you as a student or your child is experiencing bullying because of an LGBTQ+ status or a perceived LGBTQ+ status, you can take steps under school or district policy as well as [new] state and federal law to remedy the situation. And you can pursue both avenues at the same time. StopBullying.gov has a good FAQ on the Maine law addressing the law, policies, procedure, data and prevention procedures.  

Maine Anti-Bullying & Harassment Protections  

First, it is important to understand what Maine considers bullying or harassment. Maine anti-bullying laws include the following definitions of bullying and cyberbullying:  

“Bullying” includes, but is not limited to, a written, oral or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture or any combination thereof directed at a student or students that:  

    (1)   Has, or a reasonable person would expect it to have, the effect of:  

        (a)   Physically harming a student or damaging a student’s property; or  

        (b)   Placing a student in reasonable fear of physical harm or damage to the student’s property;  

    (2)   Interferes with the rights of a student by:  

        (a)   Creating an intimidating or hostile educational environment for the student; or  

        (b)   Interfering with the student’s academic performance or ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by a school; or  

    (3)   Is based on a student’s actual or perceived characteristics identified in Title 5, section 4602 or 4684-A, or is based on a student’s association with a person with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics or any other distinguishing characteristics and that has the effect described in subparagraph (1) or (2).  

You can read further here.   

 Second, consider whether you want to take action under the school’s anti-bullying or harassment policies, which should be available on the school or district website. If so, follow the steps from the policies, keep copies/screenshots of emails and texts, and take notes of conversations with school staff so you can show that you have done what you are supposed to and that the school is on notice of your concerns.   

If the school is not investigating the bullying, press them to do so. The anti-bullying law expects  Maine school districts to “establish policies and procedures to address bullying that conform to the state model policy” as shown here as well as “Provisions outlining the responsibility of a superintendent to implement and enforce the bullying policies, including a requirement to designate school personnel to administer policies at the school level and a procedure for publicly identifying the designee.” 

If you are not satisfied with the school’s response, consider contacting both the school’s principal and the district’s Superintendent (information on the school website). Under Maine’s Model Policy for Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention, they note that principals and superintendents will Promptly [OR: within ___ days] investigate and respond to allegations of bullying behavior”.   

 If working with the administration and superintendent is not helpful, and if the harassment is still related to your child’s LGBTQ+ identities, you can reach out to Maine DOE and ask for the LGBTQ+ Support contact. 

Maine Department of Education LGBTQ+ Resources can be found here: https://www.maine.gov/doe/lgbtq/student.

You may also choose to file a discrimination complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission. Find out more.

US Harassment & Discrimination Protections for Students  

Federal law is also a tool for addressing bullying and harassment.  When these behaviors are ignored or inadequately addressed, this may add up to discrimination or the denial of education opportunities based on sex, sexual orientation or gender identity, among other characteristics.   

You can raise concerns about your or your child’s experience of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ bullying, harassment, or other discrimination by contacting contact the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in Boston to file a complaint. The OCR has the authority to investigate a complaint of discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. Note that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are aspects of “sex” discrimination. Contact the Office of Civil Rights.  

Harassment and bullying because of a person’s LGBTQ+ identities likely constitutes sex discrimination under Title IX protections. Read more about the US Department of Education’s updated guidance on Title IX.  

 If you have questions about the specific situation you are experiencing or questions that have not been answered above, please reach out to GLAD Answers. 

About school censorship and book bans

On May 16, 2023, the ACLU and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) sent a letter urging Maine public school districts to protect students’ legal rights by rejecting censorship in school libraries.

Learn more here.

Get involved in your local community

  • Follow the issues that come up in your school committee and town/city council
  • Attend meetings when important issues are being discussed and even to participate in the public comment period in which School Board/Committee members listen to input from the public. It is important that they hear support for good work and good arguments for why LGBTQ+ and race-based restrictions are bad educational policy for all students.
  • Follow education, curriculum, staffing, policy, library and other issues in school board and local elections, or run for office yourself

For support in talking about issues related to education and LGBTQ+ students, and more ways to take action, visit Campaign for Our Shared Future.

Organizations and Additional Resources

Organizations

  • The Maine Department of Education provides all Maine students access to educational experiences, Pre-K through adult, that lead to their success in life and career.
  • The Maine Human Rights Commission prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected class in employment, housing, places of public accommodation, education, and extension of credit.
  • Trans Youth Equality Foundation based in Maine serves all of New England, providing education, advocacy and support for transgender and gender non-conforming children and youth and their families.
  • Maine Youth Action Newtork (MYAN) is a statewide network of committed adults and passionate young people who believe in the transformative power of youth leadership. 
  • EqualityMaine is the oldest and largest statewide organization dedicated to creating a fair and just society for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Mainers. 

For more youth-focused organizations, visit Youth Organizations | Maine.

Additional Resources

Want to learn more about LGBTQ+ Equality in Maine? Visit the Movement Advancement Project’s Maine Equality Profile.

GLAD Answers

Still have questions? Contact GLAD Answers for free and confidential legal information, assistance, and referrals. Complete the online intake form at GLADAnswers.org, email GLADAnswers@glad.org, or leave a voicemail at 800-455-GLAD.