Houlton school board member resigns because system ‘turned away from God’

3 weeks ago

HOULTON, Maine — A Houlton school district board member has resigned on ethical, moral and faith-based grounds.

Michelle Henderson, who last fall ran on a platform opposing LGBTQ+ programming in the schools, said that such programming only protects one class of children.

“What about all children?” she asked on Friday. 

Henderson, representing Houlton, received 37 votes with a two-vote margin of victory as an incumbent write-in candidate during the 2023 election for a three-year term. She was elected to a one-year term the previous year to fill a vacant position on the board. 

Board member Stephenie Lively, representing Hammond, also resigned, according to Henderson. Lively was unable to be reached Monday. She is still listed as a board member on the SAD 29 website. 

In her May resignation letter, Henderson said that she respected the board, teachers and staff, but does not respect school policies and state regulations that have changed the school system.

“In my opinion, the system has turned away from God and traditional values in ways that will negatively affect our youth in years to come. I will pray for positive change,” she said.

A pivotal point for Henderson was when the Houlton school district invited Out Maine to the school for training at the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year. The group offers in-school programming that helps educators create more welcoming and affirming communities for Maine’s LGBTQ+ youth.  

“I felt that parents had the right to know what outmaine.org stood for and what, if any, influence they’d have on our schools,” she said. 

Houlton School Superintendent Joe Fagnant did not directly address Henderson’s resignation on Monday when asked for a comment.  

“As far as any resignations, board members resign or step down for various reasons and we respect their decisions,” he said. “We thank all board members for their service while they served RSU 29 and understand it is sometimes a challenging position to be in.”

Last fall, when Henderson first brought up these issues, Fagnant said that the district follows Maine law and respects and supports all students. 

School board chairwoman Jeannie Tapley said that board members resign for many different reasons. 

“I am thankful to any community member that serves on our school board, for however much time that is and respect their decision if they decide that serving is not the right fit for them,” she said.

When asked for comment regarding Lively, Tapley did not respond other than to say there are currently two positions, one in Houlton and one in Hammond, open on the board. 

“I encourage anyone that is interested in serving to reach out to their town office or contact me if they have any questions as I would love to see our school board back at full capacity,” she said.