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Board Condemns LGBTQ+ Hate Crimes

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Board Condemns LGBTQ+ Hate Crimes
Posted on 02/02/2021
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The Portland Board of Public Education at its Feb. 2 meeting unanimously approved a resolution condemning hate crimes targeting LGBTQ+ community members.

The resolution was prompted by a spate of recent hate crimes in which Portland and South Portland residents received dangerous and threatening letters in the mail. The Board pledged its solidarity with LGBTQ+ students, staff and families and committed itself to “creating a culture of allyship” by rooting out homophobia in schools and incorporating learning about LGBTQ+ history, culture, and identity in the curriculum.

Board Chair Emily Figdor said the resolution has particular relevance for her because she is gay. “To every LGBTQ+ student in Portland Public Schools, I want to say that, from my seat as a leader and an ally, I commit to protecting and celebrating you and your family,” Figdor said.

The proposed resolution reads in part: “The Portland School Board condemns the string of recent hate crimes in which residents in Portland and South Portland received dangerous and threatening letters in the mail. The letters, which appear to be targeting those who fly a Pride flag or Black Lives Matter flag outside of their homes, contained a satanic temple logo superimposed over a Pride flag and a deeply threatening homophobic slur.”

It states that the hate crimes “are causing LGBTQ+ students, staff, and families to experience fear and trauma in addition to the daily and ongoing bigotry and threats that these members of our community experience. And we recognize that, for our Black, Indigenous, and other students, staff, and families of color, these impacts are compounded by the racism inherent in our institutions, including in our schools.”

The resolution also commits the Board “to rooting out homophobia in our schools; incorporating LGBTQ+ history, culture, and identity into our curriculum; and creating a culture of allyship.” The resolution further states that the Board is committed to ensuring that LGBTQ+ students have an equitable education and “having teachers and staff affirm all gender identities and sexualities.” It encourages teachers and staff “to display Pride stickers, posters, flags, and other LGBTQ+-positive images in their classrooms and elsewhere in our schools in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ students, staff, and families.”

After the Board vote, Superintendent Xavier Botana announced that the school district would be flying the Pride flag at all of its school buildings for the month of February and again in June, in solidarity with LGBTQ+ students, staff and families.

Read the full resolution.

During discussion on the resolution, Figdor read a statement in which she came out publicly as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. “While I have not been public about it before, I want to share tonight that I am gay,” Figdor said. “I am proud of who I am and proud to be sharing this part of my identity with the community of those I serve in my role as chair of the school board.”

Figdor said she stands “on the shoulders of so many in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights and our humanity,” citing other former and current school, city and state elected officials who have identified as LGBTQ+.

Learn more about the hate crime incidents in this Jan. 12 Portland Press Herald story.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 60 languages. 52 percent of the district’s students are white and 48 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced school meals.