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TO:                  Superintendents of Schools and Principals

FROM:            Susan Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:              October 24, 2005

RE:                   Creating Safe Environments for Staff and Students of Sexual Minority During Upcoming Referendum Discussions

            As you may know, the upcoming referendum will include Question 1, which seeks to repeal recent amendments to the Maine Human Rights Act designed to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in housing, education, employment, and other services.

            As organizations on both sides of this issue begin rolling out advertising to argue their positions, it is possible that negative language targeting and/or referencing individuals of a sexual minority will be broadcast in the media and in advertisements statewide.

            It is critical that both adults and students in our educational systems feel supported and safe during this process; therefore, the Maine Department of Education asks that you refer to the “Maine Safe Schools Resource Guide” to aid you in creating a safe and supportive environment in your school during what could be a stressful time for many Maine residents.

            We are in the process of revising this guide and also implementing LD 564, which will offer schools and communities enhanced and strengthened policies around harassment and bullying.   Issues of sexual minority youth and staff will be included in this future work. . The guide offered here should provide you with immediate supports over the next several months.

            Thank you for your attention concerning the creation and maintenance of a safe learning and working environment.