Schools Have a Legal, Moral Obligation to Address the Problem

Portland – Students of color experience regular harassment and discrimination in schools across Maine and at all grade levels, according to a new report out today from the ACLU of Maine. Drawing from interviews with over 115 students, parents and educators, the report focuses on the experiences of immigrant students in Maine schools who have diverse racial and cultural backgrounds.

“No person, least of all a child, should feel as vulnerable and excluded as many immigrant students in Maine described feeling on a regular basis,” said Emma Findlen LeBlanc, senior researcher with the ACLU of Maine and lead author of the report. “Immigrant kids want the same thing all kids want - to go to school, to feel safe and happy, and to learn. Unfortunately, that is not the experience many of them are having.”

Under Maine and federal law, schools are required to address bullying and discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, disability, gender or sexual orientation. Yet the ACLU uncovered hundreds of stories of such treatment across the state, and a lack of adequate policies to address the problem.

The report goes on to describe several successful programs some schools have implemented to address inequality, with the goal of encouraging other schools to adopt similar programs and tactics.

“Maine schools have both a moral and a legal obligation to provide a safe place for all students to learn,” said Findlen LeBlanc. “We hope this report will be a useful tool for students, families and educators who want to make their schools safer and more fair for all students.”

The report, along with supplemental materials for students, parents and educators, is available online at www.aclumaine.org/webelonghere

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