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Bonny Eagle High School teachers, parents face harassment during book debate

Groups against Gender Queer: A Memoir allegedly harassed parents and teachers who voiced support for the book, which currently only exists in the school library.

BUXTON, Maine — Kate McDonald has two children, both enrolled at Bonny Eagle High School. She's been active in this last year's school board election and was outspoken amid recent debates surrounding books that explain gender identity and sexuality.

McDonald supports the preservation of books such as "Gender Queer" and "It's Perfectly Normal" within the school libraries. She even started a petition to rally support around the books.

She also called for support and people to come out ahead of Monday's upcoming school board meeting, where the board will vote if it should ban "Gender Queer" from the library.

There is currently only one copy of "Gender Queer" at the high school. "It's Perfectly Normal" was voted on previously by the board in a positive light, with them voting to keep it in libraries.

But after launching her petition, McDonald told NEWS CENTER Maine she received several messages against her efforts.

"They posted information about who I am. They accused me of using sock puppet accounts, telling people what I am and who I am," McDonald said. 

McDonald said since the attacks online, she worries for her children's safety and has locked her doors at home more often while inside.

"My high school junior has never known a year without being afraid of potential gun violence, and now we have to worry about people coming to teachers and staff. That is horrible," McDonald said.

The group that called out Kate's petition is Education Revolution, a Facebook page formerly used by two MSAD 6 School Board candidates: Vickie Shane and Eric Bleiken.

After the two lost their elections in June, the group was renamed Education Revolution and focused on posting photos of Gender Queer.

Vickie Shane is listed as the moderator for the page. She told NEWS CENTER Maine over the phone that posting McDonald's profile information violated no laws, but she wishes people did not attack her in messages.

"That makes me sad if that is truly the case, and I would say that if anyone is on my page, if you are doing that, you are wrong. We need to approach this in a civil matter," Shane said.

Ashley Kuntz has three elementary school kids in the district and said her husband received threats to his job and reputation over Facebook after a Facebook post from Shane's group.

"There are accusations of pedophilia on Facebook. Teachers have been encouraged to change their names and hide their identities on social media. We're fearful of how this might escalate going forward," Kuntz said in an email.

But it's not only parents who said they were targeted in messages and emails. The teachers' union for MSAD 6 said it's aware of several teachers receiving harassing messages. 

"Some are working to drive a wedge between parents and educators pushing an extreme political agenda which has no place in our public schools," Dawna Cyr, the union's president, said in a statement.

In a September episode of Maine Source of Truth (by podcaster Shawn McBreairty), the podcaster broadcasted the names and emails of several MSAD 6 staff members. 

"If you want to contact her," he added before giving away the email address of one teacher.

McBreairty's episode lasted more than an hour and spent the first segment criticizing the opinions of teachers at an MSAD 6 school board meeting.

This isn't the first time he has offered an opinion on a school district matter.

At RSU 22, the district ended up awarding the conservative podcaster $40,000 for violating his first amendment rights. He was originally kicked out of a school board meeting for playing a recording that detailed "inappropriate language." 

"That statement is absolutely ridiculous. If someone is actually targeting their children, they should file a police report," McBreairty told NEWS CENTER Maine in an email. "It’s not a secret. These teachers are paid by We the People, by property, state, and federal taxes."

But for the MSAD 6 school board, the allegations of harassment following McBreairty's podcast are being taken seriously.

"Several MSAD 6 employees are being harassed by a fringe social media page from outside the school district. This behavior is deeply troubling, and the board is wholly committed to protecting the safety of everyone in our school community. Many of our teachers fear they will be the next victim of this group's slander, and it's important that our community know the board supports each of our dedicated professionals," Nathan Carlow, the school board chair, told NEWS CENTER Maine in an email.

The school board is expected to vote on keeping or removing "Gender Queer" from its high school library on Monday.

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