Release: New analysis shows critical social justice is pervasive in Maine’s K-12 education system



August 23, 2022
Contact: Jacob Posik
Director of Communications
Office: 207.321.2550

Maine Policy Institute Releases New Report
On Critical Social Justice in Maine’s Public Education System
The analysis details how critical social justice ideology has seeped into the fabric of Maine’s public school system and the harms it poses to families and students. 

PORTLAND, Maine – Maine Policy Institute today released a new analysis titled, “Critical Social Justice in Maine K-12 Education.” The report, authored by Dr. Scott Yenor and Anna K. Miller, documents the presence and proliferation of critical social justice (CSJ) ideology within Maine’s K-12 public education system.

The report finds that CSJ ideology exists and is expanding throughout Maine, fueled by federal money, the executive branch, an increasingly radical Maine Department of Education (MDOE) and a host of nonprofit groups which, aided by the MDOE, promote their curricula and resources in public schools.

According to CSJ ideology, American society is made up of oppressive structures–like the education system–built by the privileged to keep disadvantaged groups weak and unequal. Instead of imparting truth to children and emphasizing skills or literacy, schools teach so-called oppressors to dismantle oppressive structures, and then to identify with the plight of the supposedly oppressed. While the MDOE commits itself to dismantling the old education system, traditional measures of success, like mastery in reading and math, are showing marked signs of decline.

CSJ ideology takes many forms in schools but is most pronounced through the infusion of so-called antiracism in the classroom and the sexualization of education, including curricula developed for the youngest age groups. Unfortunately, parents are often unaware of what is being taught in their child’s classroom and are unable to opt out of this style of education.

The report finds that CSJ ideology exists and is spreading rapidly throughout Maine districts, and recent examples abound. These include, but are not limited to:

  • A sixth-grade classroom at Gorham Middle School was filled with gender ideology posters reading “Gender is a social construct,” “B is for Bisexual,” and “T is for Transgender.”
  • Third to fifth grade students in RSU 22 (Hampden) were told to draw pictures of nonbinary genders.
  • Kindergarteners in RSU 2 (Kennebec Intra-District Schools) were given sexual assault training by an outside group without parental consent.
  • The superintendent of RSU 4 (Wales) said a policy allowing students to use the bathroom and locker room of the opposite sex is “necessary to guide the districts actions moving forward.”
  • A video developed under the MDOE’s MOOSE program designed for preschool to second grade students said that sometimes doctors “make a mistake” in designating gender when a baby is born.

The report discusses the eight main vehicles for integrating CSJ into Maine schools: culturally responsive teaching, transformative social-emotional learning (SEL), action civics, equity, restorative justice, the whole child or “student-centered” approach, trauma-informed practices, and queer theory.

The federal government provides funding to states and administers programs that encourage schools to move in the direction of CSJ education. These programs include, but are not limited to, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Every Student Succeeds Act, Common Core and the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. These programs promote transformative SEL and comprehensive sex education or result in extensive surveillance of students by unqualified staff and without parental consent. 

The chief executive, through the reintroduction of the Children’s Cabinet, has also helped move schools toward CSJ. The cabinet has developed a universally accessible SEL curriculum for all schools and funded restorative justice programs. It has also increased the surveillance of students through behavior health screenings.

Under MDOE Commissioner Pender Makin, the department has handed the keys to education training and curricula to left-wing groups. Maine law does not require schools to instruct about sexual orientation and gender identity, but the department promotes on its website curricula and trainings developed by outside groups and encourages local districts to adopt them. The MDOE elevates CSJ education nonprofits and promotes the use of the materials they develop without a directive from the Legislature. No countervailing ideology is present within the system.

The department helps facilitate the implementation of LGBTQ-affirming curriculum at all grade levels, partnering with OUT Maine, Maine Family Planning, Puberty Happens, and other groups. School districts following the direction of the MDOE are encouraged to adopt policies that require staff to use pronouns corresponding with a students’ chosen gender identity without parental consent.

MDOE has also committed to “decolonizing current curricula” and pressures districts and teachers to review curricula and syllabi for “bias” through a “race-conscious lens,” and alter them to become “culturally responsive.” All of this is done to advance the idea of equity, or equality of results, rather than equality of opportunity or equal justice under the law.

“CSJ undermines key American notions like color-blindness, meritocracy, and republican self-government,” said Dr. Scott Yenor, lead author of the report. “Critical theorists believe that oppressive structures linger beneath our seemingly liberal framework, and therefore promote color-conscious and sex-conscious policies to students. CSJ ideology cannot organize a just society or deliver a workable education system.”

Dr. Yenor identifies several policies in the analysis that can remedy the spread of CSJ ideology throughout Maine’s education system. These include transparency laws that require all districts to display their curriculum, required readings and teacher trainings on their websites for public consumption; parents’ rights legislation that allows parents to opt their children into this type of education; and school choice, which would enable parents to enroll their child elsewhere if they do not approve of CSJ education in their local schools. 

“We send our kids to school to learn reading, writing and arithmetic, but many schools would seemingly rather teach pronouns, prejudice and politics. Maine’s public school system should stop emphasizing CSJ ideology and instead focus on mastery of subjects, free thought and truth,” said Director of Policy Nick Murray.

The full report can be read here.


Maine Policy Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works to expand individual liberty and economic freedom in Maine. Learn more about our work at