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Kennebunk School Board Takes Steps To Investigate Racist Incidents At High School

Robbie Feinberg
Maine Public
School board members in Kennebunk meet in late February to address racist incidents in the district that have recently come to light.

The school board for RSU 21 in Kennebunk is hiring legal counsel to help it select an independent investigator to look into racist incidents in the district and the response by administrators.The decision comes a month after the Portland Press-Herald detailed a complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission by a former Kennebunk High School teacher who is black. In the complaint, Rosa Slack details an incident in her classroom involving two students and a Confederate flag. Both students were later suspended, but Slack says she was disappointed that the district didn't do more to address the incidents.  After she complained, she says she received a poor review of her performance.At a meeting on Monday night, the school board voted to hire an outside law firm to help guide the district in hiring an independent investigator.  Board chair Emily Kahn said the district is in need of outside help with the process."And, quite frankly, a need to get some distance between the board making all of these decisions, and making this selection, and having someone in a more neutral capacity to assist us in that," Kahn said.Attorney Peter Lowe said an inquiry can provide clarity on the incidents, and potentially identify whether there are broader systemic issues of bias or hate in the district."My takeaway is that the most important step you can take going forward is to get an indpendent investigation underway," Lowe said.

The district is also creating a five-member committee of school board and community members to help assist with the selection process.