Student's parents file discrimination complaint with state

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GORHAM — Alleging racial discrimination, the parents of a Gorham Middle School student have filed a legal complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission.

“We have alleged race discrimination – in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act – on the part of the Gorham School Department for their failure to respond to the Moores’ reports of racially motivated bullying against their child,” Amy Phalon, the attorney for Patrick and Kadia Moore said in a May 9 email to the American Journal.

Patrick Moore says his sixth-grade son has been targeted with racial slurs and has been bullied in school and on social media. He says the school failed to address his concerns about that. He also says his son was unjustly suspended earlier this year after a school fight.

Amy Sneirson, executive director of the Maine Human Rights Commission in Augusta, citing the confidentiality of complaints filed with the agency, on Tuesday declined to confirm or deny that the complaint had been filed.  Gorham Superintendent Heather Perry said Monday that she had received no notice that the formal complaint had been made.

Moore said this week he had no comment about the legal complaint.

The Moores feel their son was wrongly expelled from school for three days after a fight on March 19, claiming his involvement was self-defense. Middle School Principal Robert Riley wrote to the Moores in an April 5 letter, which Phalon provided to the American Journal, that the “suspension from school was warranted.”

But Phalon, an attorney with Murray Plumb & Murray, disagreed.

“The school’s failure to address the reported bullying in a timely and effective manner resulted in the Moores’ son being physically attacked,” Phalon said. “He was out of school for several days — three due to an unwarranted suspension and additional days due to anxiety about returning to school.”

Phalon said the Human Rights Commission would send an investigator to Gorham and an investigation could take a couple of months. 

The Maine Human Rights Commission enforces the state’s anti-discrimination laws and pursues “remedies for unlawful discrimination in court when necessary” to enforce them, it says.

The Moores’ dispute with the school also includes an accusation that Riley used a four-letter expletive in a phone call to Kadia Moore in March.

Kadia Moore said Tuesday that during that conversation Riley told her,  “Oh, [expletive] off” after she criticized the school’s handling of bullying.

According to a School Department letter on April 5 that the Moores made available, Riley telephoned Kadia Moore on March 20. The letter refutes the Moore’s accusation because of “insufficient evidence to conclude” that Riley was rude or had used such a word.

“I heard it very clearly,” Kadia Moore said about the remark, adding she would not perjure herself.

She said she asked Riley during the phone conversation what he had said. She said he denied the profanity. “No, I said oh, please,” she recalled was Riley’s reply.

Riley did not return an email request Tuesday to call the American Journal for comment by the newspaper’s deadline Wednesday. School administrators are restricted by confidentiality.

Robert Lowell can be reached at 854-2577 or rlowell@keepmecurrent.com