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MVHS principal delivers powerful message
RUMFORD -- After a day of dealing with a civil rights issue that went viral on social media, Mountain Valley High School Principal Matt Gilbert called an unscheduled assembly last Wednesday to address all students.
Gilbert began, “One of our themes in PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) is keeping students safe. That includes protecting everyone’s civil rights. When we protect students who need it the most, we’re at our best.”
Gilbert read from RSU 10 policy entitled “Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students.” In part, the policy says, “Harassment includes, but is not limited to, verbal abuse, slurs, demeaning comments or behavior, or other unwelcome verbal, written or physical conduct directed toward a student or students based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, ancestry or national origin, or disability.”
“The reason behind this policy is simple – everyone should feel safe at school,” Gilbert explained. “If you disagree with the policy, your rights end when you violate someone else’s rights.”
His voice grew louder and more powerful. “Violating someone’s civil rights is wrong period.”
The audience was silent.
With a tone of sadness, Gilbert continued, “Very few times in my career have I had to have a conversation like this. I would much prefer to do things that recognize the good things that all of you do. I love to cheer you on at games, watch your plays, listen to your concerts and read your name in the paper for doing good things. But I can’t remain silent about this issue, everyone should feel accepted at this school.”
“This is a chance for all of us to learn and grow. I love the passion that you have demonstrated. But ask yourself, is my passion misguided? Who really needs your compassion in this case?”
Gilbert explained, “There are students in this auditorium who are wondering why didn’t you stand up for me?”
“It’s tough to stand up for what’s right but that’s character,” Gilbert continued. “Character isn’t jumping on a bandwagon that’s going in the wrong direction. You develop character by doing what’s right.”
The students exited the auditorium in silence and with serious faces. They clearly got the message that civil rights violations would not be tolerated at Mountain Valley High School. They also seemed to understand that standing up for civil rights is an expectation.