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Students and Faculty Grapple with Issues of Social and Racial Justice in Portland, Maine

Casco Bay High School uses Public Agenda guide to help design a day-long community dialogue event

Following a racially-motivated incident outside of the school, faculty and administrators at Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine decided to pilot Public Agenda’s “Addressing Incidents of Bias in Schools: A Guide for Preventing and Reacting to Discrimination Affecting Students” to help their students work through the incident and think of preventative measures moving forward.

Principal Derek Pierce and social studies teacher Stewart Croft felt that for students to have a meaningful dialogue, they need to have it among themselves. They selected 14 students to act as facilitators and used the guide to provide a framework for the discussions that had taken place in groups of ten. The organizers used the tips in the Guide to facilitate conversations between the student group participants, as well as created a “FAQ for Facilitators and Faculty Supporters” document to provide additional support for the student facilitators (now included in the updated version of the Guide).

During the discussions, students thought of ways they could address bias in their communities and shared how they could put their ideas in practice. The end result of the daylong session was a successful conversation, where both students and teachers were able to come together and have a productive discussion on a difficult topic with real actionable solutions as an outcome.

The organizers of the event plan to organize another event in 2019 where they hope to bring together an even more diverse group of people to participate in the dialogue together.

Want more info on the Guide? You can download it HERE or watch a recording of a national webinar hosted by Education Week where Matt Leighninger and Nicole Cabral of Public Agenda touched on specific sections of the Guide and answered questions from attendees.