Cape school board supports diversity resolution

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The impassioned poem read aloud by 16-year-old Haleema Shir helped stir the school board’s unanimous 6-0 affirmation and support Tuesday night of a resolution welcoming students from all backgrounds. 

Shir and others continued what they started at a May 1 Town Council meeting: asking for adoption of a resolution chartered by the Cape Diversity Coalition.

The school board chose to “affirm and support” the resolution, deeming adoption too strong a word and one that could cause legal challenges down the road. Town councilors also had concerns over adoption. 

Shir, other teenage students, and several adults spoke to the school board about the need to accept students who do not fit the mold some social circles expect of some young people. This includes coming out as transgender, wearing religious head scarves, or being multiracial.

On Tuesday night, School board Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres spoke about the students’ commitment to their cause for inclusion.

“It takes a lot of courage to share your perspective and your pain,” Scifres said. “I am in full support of this.”

School board member John Voltz asked that interim Superintendent Howard Colter, who did not attend the meeting, review existing inclusion policies and report back to the school board.

The eight-point resolution calls for tolerance of all kinds in a supportive, welcoming, nuturing school environment. A skirmish between two opposing groups of students hurling racial epithets while a championship football game played out nearby last fall started the movement leading to Tuesday night’s action.

Students this month reported harassment of their gender or religion even as the Cape Diversity Coalition worked on a resolution. School board Vice Chairwoman Susana Measelle Hubbs is a CDC member.

It remains to be seen if the resolution induces better interactions between some students, especially teens, however. 

“We have these words and these actions are still happening,” Voltz said.

Lisa D. Connell can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or Follow Lisa on Twitter: @connell_ld.