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PORTLAND, Maine — About 200 Lincoln Middle School students walked out of class Friday morning, protesting their principal and teachers’ lack of response to ongoing incidents of racism, Islamophobia, transphobia and homophobia at their school.
Last fall, Lincoln Middle School Principal Robyn Bailey publicly apologized after making racially prejudiced comments about newly elected city commissioners.
But students on Friday said that wasn’t enough and that a culture of intolerance was pervasive at their school both amongst students and staff when they walked out at 8:35 a.m.
“Our school is racist and nobody is doing anything about it,” said Elizabeth Luka, 14, a Lincoln eighth-grader.
Several students said they heard the n-word on a regular basis in the halls.
“A teacher even said the n-word,” said eighth-grader Lattecia Cole, 13. “We told him he couldn’t say that.”
Another student said a teacher had told them not to speak Spanish because they were “in America.”
“One teacher called a Black student a monkey,” said Jack Brogan, an eighth-grade organizer of the walkout.
Students chanted “Black lives matter,” “Asian lives matter,” “Love is love,” and “Muslim lives matter.” Passing cars, including two school buses, honked in support.
Bailey gave students one hour to protest but instructed them not to record video or take pictures of their actions. Students not back in the building by 9:25 a.m. were subject to punishment.
“We’re prepared to get a detention,” Brogan said.
When their time was up, about half of the protestors declined to go back inside and were asked to leave school property. About 50 then marched off down Stevens Avenue, returning — for more protesting — about an hour later.
Parent Tucker Daniels stood on the sidewalk across from the school and said his seventh-grader was in the protest. Daniels agreed there were problems with racism, transphobia and homophobia at the school.
“There’s been so much turmoil this year,” Daniels said. “Teachers must take this seriously.”
A Portland School Department spokesperson said Superintendent Xavier Botana was not available to immediately comment.