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TASK FORCE ON GENDER EQUITY IN EDUCATION
Research Team Meeting
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
2 PM - 4 PM
Cross State Office Building, # 500

ATTENDING: Mary Madden, Lyn Brown, Sharon Wilson-Barker, Carla Ritchie, Lisa Plimpton, Rich Kent, Aileen Fortune, Cheryl DiCara (guest), Sue O'Halloran (guest), Susan Corrente (facilitator)

WELCOME: Susan welcomed everyone and explained that Patrick was asked to stay at the State Board meeting this afternoon so won't be able to join us.

LENDING LIBRARY TRANSACTIONS: None were conducted today. Susan distributed a list of resources (recommended by another Department staff person as possible resources for the Task Force) for review by the members; none were recommended by Research Team members. Susan also updated members on the answer Patrick received from the AAG for the Department to the question presented at the last Task Force meeting as to whether it was permissible for schools to prohibit pregnant students from attending school; the response back was that this does constitute gender discrimination. Susan also circulated an article she had seen, describing a lawsuit by the ACLU against a California school district for requiring pregnant students and students with children to attend alternative classrooms with very little instruction or teaching. Finally, Susan also distributed copies of the Executive Summary of a recently published report from the National Center for Education Statistics entitled "Trends in Educational Equity of Girls and Women: 2004"; Mary noted that the full report is available on line at the address on the handout.

UPDATE ON DEPARTMENT OF LABOR PRESENTATION: Michael wasn't at the meeting so this be followed up next meeting.

UPDATE ON REPORT: Mary reported that she continues to gather and organize the data; she has been in touch with Harry with respect to accessing some of the data from his presentation. She and Sharon noted that anecdotal information that comes up in focus groups is very important but is not the research data and the members discussed the best way of including it in the report; there was agreement that it would be best to review the research literature to see if there is anything that would support what is provided as anecdote and to use the literature on the issue/topic as a way of framing the issue and raising awareness of it, and to highlight any practices that may address it. The members also agreed that the purpose of faculty focus groups will be different than the purpose of the student focus groups; the faculty focus groups will be important in informing the Research Team on how best to deliver and implement the recommendations that the Task Force will make (rollout and training). The Research Team agreed that it will begin planning for this early in 2005, as we continue to work on the report itself; and will again invite those members of the Task Force that spoke to this issue at the November meeting (Phyllis, Craig, Rebecca) and others who are interested to join us for the discussion . The members then returned to the question of how best and when to involve the media in this work. Sharon will extend an invitation to Ruth Ellen Cohen (Bangor Daily News), who wrote an article about the Task Force when it first assembled, to come to the next Task Force meeting and/or Research Team meeting, to get a sense of where we are in the work, so far. Also, Carla will be looking at the information that is coming out of the study by the CDC, with the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, in relation to NCSA data for the same region; Mary will review the relevant MYDAUS data, which is available on line.

DISCUSSION OF ALLAN JOHNSON'S ELEMENTS OF PRIVILEGE: Sharon provided a handout, an excerpt from Dr. Johnson's book "Privilege, Power and Difference" (2001) and recommended that it might be better used as background reading by the members, instead of as a focus for discussion today. The members agreed, and will read the excerpt.

PRESENTATION/DISCUSSION: The presenters from the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, Cheryl DiCara and Sue O'Halloran, joined us at 2:30 and presented on their work - both generally and in the Midcoast area with the CDC, specifically. They provided various informational handouts. Sue noted that the incident at Columbine taught that suicidal youth are often behind school violence, so preparing for school violence now includes preparing to deal with suicide. Suicide, and mental health issues generally, have been so stigmatized; increased public awareness is needed. Carla noted that if the Task Force can get this issue "in the door" for schools, communities, to allow the necessary conversation, we will have done something important. Sue noted that the Maine Suicide Prevention Program focuses on individuals age 10 - 24, but the principles and practices apply to any age. Students don't seek out those in disciplinary or evaluative roles ( as guidance counselors often have) to discuss feelings of suicidality, for fear of the action they may take. Rather, they talk to peers, to school nurses, those with whom they have a relationship, and they are the gatekeepers to services for these students; the Lifelines program provides training to these gatekeepers, with a focus on grades 8 - 12. Sue noted that more information and resources are available, and she provided her email address should the Task Force want further information/resources such as "A Life Saved" , a film on caring that models peer caring behavior in response to a peer's difficulties and is geared to middle/early high school students (sueoh@med.org). She and Cheryl also described the work they are doing with 12 schools under a 3 year grant that allows for not only comprehensive training but evaluation. They noted that they do have epidemiologists analyzing data on youth suicide; one finding so far is that it appears that suicide among Maine middle/high school students has been declining since 1995. Members discussed with Sue and Cheryl the data on suicidality among adolescent girls and the data provided by Sue and Cheryl on suicide, suicide attempts and self-inflicted injuries, the YRBS findings and the findings from the CDC High School Youth Suicide Prevention Project for the 2003 - 2004 school year. They also discussed the role that gender identity may have on suicidality among youth.

Lyn noted that research reports suggest that teasing around gay issues and gay identity issues impact suicide attempts (some studies suggest gay/lesbian teens are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide) and of course gay-baiting in schools is on the rise, so kids are at risk of being targeted as gay whether or not they are, and this can lead to many of the risk factors (like depression,etc.) that the CDC report cites; however, Sue O'Halloran responded that it's not clear that this rate can be attributed to the student's homosexuality, as opposed to the depression etc. that may result from being identified as gay/lesbian. Lyn feels that we need further answers to these questions.

Next Meeting: Tuesday, January 18, 2005, 2 PM - 4 PM, Cross Sate Office Building, # 500. HAPPY HOLIDAYS.