DIXFIELD, Maine — An activity on name calling at Dirigo Middle School on Tuesday turned to shock and anger from parents after vandals wrote obscenities on hallway posters after school.
RSU 10 Superintendent Tom Ward and Principal Celena Ranger said Wednesday that the activity was part of an assembly Monday featuring Brandon Baldwin, a member for the Civil Rights Team Project for the Maine Office of the Attorney General, speaking on name calling.
Blank posters were hung in hallways Tuesday so students on Wednesday could write names they had been called, although some had done so Tuesday, the two administrators said. They believe students hanging around after school added obscenities to the posters, even while teachers and coaches were in the building.
Parents who brought elementary and middle school students to youth wrestling practice Tuesday night, as well as students themselves, were shocked and outraged to see the posters.
Tanya Ellis, mother of a seventh-grader, said she learned about the posters when her child came home from practice and posted her outrage on Facebook. After talking with teachers, she learned what had happened but still questioned the method for the activity.
“Parents should have been told about this,” she said.
She said teachers should have been aware that some students would take advantage of the opportunity to add obscene words.
“Now, unfortunately, something that was well-intended went bad and parents are angry,” Ellis said.
Ward agreed, saying in hindsight that the posters should have either been taken down when classes were over or put up Wednesday. He said the activity would be changed.
“Instead, students will be writing down names on a piece of paper and handing them to teachers,” he said.
Michael Ferris, who has a daughter in seventh grade, said the activity should not have focused on individual words but suggested to Ranger that it focus on the emotions name calling causes and how to deal with them.
Ranger said the activity was intended to have teachers and staff be aware of the words being used and to make a plan of action so students could be safe at school.
Ward and Ranger said they didn’t know who wrote the obscenities but are hoping someone will come forward with names.
Ranger said nothing was said to students about what happened or the possible repercussions.
“We didn’t want to make all the students feel guilty for something a few had done,” Ward said.
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