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Attorney General Janet Mills today applauded the success of the Civil Rights Team Project in its twenty-second year
January 30, 2018
AUGUSTA - In 2017 the Civil Rights Team Project trained 1,545 students and partnered with nearly two hundred public, private and charter schools, supporting student civil rights teams in their efforts to create a safe environment for all students. One of the more popular school based offerings, the local civil rights teams allow students to create novel approaches to encountering bias in their schools and communities. The program costs nothing to local schools and is entirely voluntary.
In May 2017 the Project hosted a statewide conference which brought together more than 550 Maine high school and middle school students from 55 schools who are part of their local civil rights teams. Student-led workshops discussed the challenges of immigrant and minority youth who face language barriers, bias and intimidation. Children from India, Iraq, Syria, Bangladesh and Lebanon spoke about the difficulties they face being accepted in their schools.
The Civil Rights Team Project has been housed in the Attorney General’s Office since the fall of 1996 and is headed for the last ten years by trained educator Brandon Baldwin. Given the number of young people from different cultures and backgrounds that are very different from the historical norms in Maine, and given the rise in bias and hate crimes, the Project is more in demand than ever before.
In addition to the Civil Rights Team Project, the Office of the Attorney General brings court actions for injunctive relief against people who intentionally interfere or attempt to interfere with the civil rights of other persons by physical force or violence or damage or destruction of property. In the last two years the Office has brought lawsuits against several dozen individuals for civil rights violations, some of them involving extreme threats and assaultive behavior based solely on the race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation of the person attacked.
“I am proud of the work of our Civil Rights Team Project,” Attorney General Mills said. “Every child in Maine deserves a promising future and an equal chance at a good education and decent quality of life. That means we must address hate crimes based on cultural biases. Many of our predecessors came from foreign lands seeking freedom to practice their craft and their faith. Many of them faced hostility and discrimination. We must seek equality and freedom, as they did then, for all Mainers now, new or old. And that work begins with our youth.”