BRUNSWICK, Maine — The mother of a former Brunswick Junior High School student will argue before the Maine Human Rights Commission in July that her son was repeatedly bullied and harassed due to his “perceived sexual orientation” to the point that he became suicidal.
An investigator for the commission will recommend that it find reasonable ground to believe that discrimination occurred, executive director Amy Sneirson told the Bangor Daily News on Friday.
The Times Record reported Friday that the investigator determined that the verbal and physical harassment of the boy was pervasive and severe enough to interfere with the boy’s education.
Assistant Superintendent Gregory Bartlett told the Bangor Daily News on Friday that the Brunswick School Department will appeal the investigator’s report, which the commission will review on July 14.
According to The Times Record, the mother of the former student alleges that between August 2010 and August 2012 her son was subjected to repeated instances of bullying and harassment due to his “perceived sexual orientation.” He was allegedly taunted for his appearance by other students, and was subjected to unwanted and inappropriate touching by other students, at times as part of a so-called “gay test,” according to the parent.
The school district maintains the boy didn’t follow an agreed-upon safety plan in which the student was assigned an adult escort to accompany him between classes and was required to stay late in class or leave early in order to avoid hallways filled with students, The Times Record reported. The boy also had lunch in a classroom and was allowed to use a private bathroom.
Superintendent Paul Perzanoski told The Times Record that officials followed the district’s policy and investigated and appropriately addressed allegations of teasing.
In late October, the boy told his mother that he had been sexually assaulted by other students on three occasions between November 2011 and May 2012, according to the report. At that point, he stopped attending BJHS.
The boy was admitted to the hospital in December 2012 for “suicidal ideation,” after which he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the sexual assaults, according to the report.
A doctor’s exam noted a scar consistent with the boy’s description of a November 2011 sexual assault, in which he was cut on the arm with a knife, according to The Times Record, but a Brunswick Police Department investigation “determined that the allegations of sexual assault were not credible.”
Perzanoski told The Times Record there is “quite a bit that needs to be clarified” in the investigator’s report … There’s a lot of inaccuracies that need to be corrected.”
Snierson said the commission determines reasonable grounds based on “whether there’s at least an even chance that the complainant can prove in court that the discrimination occurred.”
The five-member Maine Human Rights Commission will hear oral presentations on July 14 and make a determination. If the commission cannot resolve the issue through conciliation within 90 days, the complainant could then potentially file suit.