Maine human rights panel faults Brunswick schools for failing to stop bullying of junior high student

Posted July 14, 2014, at 6:35 p.m.
Brunswick Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski
Dylan Martin | The Forecaster
Brunswick Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski

BRUNSWICK, Maine — The Maine Human Rights Commission on Monday ruled there are reasonable grounds to believe the Brunswick School Department discriminated against a Brunswick Junior High School student.

In a complaint filed in 2012, the student’s mother claimed her 13-year-old son was emotionally and physically abused by fellow students for more than two years and eventually decided to leave Brunswick Junior High School in October 2012.

In a 3-2 vote, commissioners meeting Monday in Augusta upheld conclusions reached by Maine Human Rights Commission investigator Victoria Ternig and contained in a report released in June.

In her report, Ternig found that the school department “allowed a hostile education environment to persist for a lengthy period of time,” and that the student was discriminated against on the basis of his “perceived sexual orientation and sex.”

The abuse against the student continued despite the school’s efforts to stop and prevent it, Ternig found.

In a statement issued after Monday’s ruling, Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said the department was “extremely disappointed” by the commission’s vote and “wholeheartedly” disagreed with the decision.

“Contrary to the conclusion, Brunswick Junior High School took the complaints serious and moved quickly and decisively to respond to complaints that were brought to the school’s attention,” Perzanoski said

The school will continue to take measures to combat bullying and harassment at Brunswick Junior High School , Perzanoski said.

“We will continue to review our procedures and practices on this issue and also continue our school-wide assemblies, staff trainings and peer mediation,” he added.

Maine Human Rights Commission Executive Director Amy Sneirson said Monday afternoon that the commission’s decision means the two parties and the Maine Human Rights Commission have 90 days to negotiate a settlement.

If the parties are unable to reach an agreement within that time, the complainant and the Maine Human Rights Commission are allowed to file a civil lawsuit in the case, Sneirson said.

 

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