AUGUSTA, Maine — Civil rights teams in 240 Maine schools are doing their part to stem bullying, or peer-to-peer aggression, through education, thanks to the Civil Rights Team Project offered through the Maine Attorney General’s Office.
The project is a “school-based preventative program to combat hate violence, prejudice, harassment and bias in the schools” and is unique in the nation, according to Thom Harnett, assistant attorney general for civil rights education and enforcement and the Civil Rights Team Project director.
Harnett, Maine Attorney General Janet T. Mills and Czerny Brasuell, director of multicultural affairs at Bates College in Lewiston, are heading the statewide Civil Rights Team Conference to be held Monday at the Augusta Civic Center. More than 1,000 students and their leaders are expected to attend the daylong workshops.
“The No. 1 influence on a school’s climate is the student behavior, and students can regulate that better than anyone else,” Harnett said. “What we try to get across to students is [that] the school is the community and it’s really their first chance to find what kind of community they want to live in.” He said the hope is that the students choose a community that reflects more kindness, compassion and respect rather than one that is marked by people using harsh words and actions.
The point of all the project work is for the students themselves to become leaders and the agents for change in the schools, Harnett said.