A man speaks at a podium surrounded by people during a meeting
Shawn McBreairty addresses the RSU 22 board of directors during a meeting Nov. 17, 2021. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The Hermon School Department is suing a local conservative activist who called a teacher a “sexual predator” and “head of the hypersexualization movement” in statements on social media, his podcast and local radio as well as in a letter to the school department.

The lawsuit alleging that Shawn McBreairty, 51, made false and defamatory statements against the teacher is the second action from a Penobscot County school department in as many weeks against the Hampden activist who has accused multiple Maine school districts, state agencies, teachers and others of indoctrinating students and teaching critical race theory.

Hermon filed the lawsuit in Penobscot County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Regional School Unit 22 in Hampden last week barred McBreairty from attending any school board meetings or setting foot on its properties for meeting purposes until the end of the year, after he was removed from an April 27 school board meeting for playing an obscene audio recording.

The Hermon School Department is asking a judge to declare that McBreairty has engaged in bullying and harassing behavior toward the Hermon teacher, and that his behavior violates school policy. The department also wants a judge to prohibit McBreairty from engaging in similar behavior to protect the teacher and other Hermon educators from future bullying and harassment, according to the complaint.

A failure to receive such a declaration from a judge would lead the Hermon School Department to be in violation of a policy requiring that it protect employees from harassment, and would lead to the loss of employees unwilling to work in an environment that exposed them to harassment and bullying. The loss of those employees would degrade the quality of education for Hermon students, according to the lawsuit.

The school department is also seeking reimbursement for legal costs.

Hermon did not seek an order of protection against McBreairty because only individuals, not entities, can seek them, said Melissa Hewey, the school department’s attorney.

“The School Department has brought this lawsuit because it felt that it had no other option by which it could fulfill its obligation to protect this employee from being bullied in the course of [their] employment,” Hewey said.

McBreairty volunteers with the conservative activist group Maine First Project and wrote an amendment to the Maine Republican Party platform that would require public school teachers to adhere to a code of ethics to prevent them from teaching “identity politics and kiddie porn.” He has accused various Maine teachers, school departments and state agencies on social media, local radio and on his podcast of “being sexual predators,” “grooming children,” “indoctrinating students” and “hypersexualizing minors.”

“Groomers” is a canard used to depict LGBTQ people as pedophiles that has become popular among conservative politicians.

McBreairty said the Hermon teacher was a “sexual predator” and “head of the hypersexualization movement,” and accused them and two other educators of “grooming children” in a letter to the department and in statements he made on a radio broadcast, on social media and on his podcast, Hewey said in the lawsuit.

McBreairty, although he has no children in the teacher’s classroom or any children attending Hermon schools, “has made it a personal mission to mock, intimidate and attempt to hold [the teacher] out for public ridicule and scorn simply because he does not agree” with them.

Neither McBreairty nor the lawyer to whom RSU 22 in Hampden addressed its letter banning McBreairty from school board meetings responded to multiple requests for comment Wednesday.

McBreairty’s statements about the Hermon teacher are false and defamatory, have recklessly or intentionally damaged the teacher’s mental health, violated their privacy and made them feel unsafe, Hewey said in the nine-page complaint.

His behavior constitutes stalking and violates a department policy against bullying and harassment and has made it impossible for the department to protect its employee from future mistreatment, she said in the complaint.

The teacher had to change classrooms, seek counseling and miss work because of the emotional distress that McBreairty’s statements caused. Other educators have resigned or threatened to leave the department because of McBreairty’s “baseless attacks,” Hewey said in the complaint. 

State law requires schools to adopt anti-bullying policies and to “ensure the safety of employees and an inclusive environment for all employees and students.”

The Hermon School Department has an anti-bullying policy that covers cyberbullying, Hewey said.

A bill that would have strengthened protections against harassment for teachers and education officials died in the Maine Legislature in April.

This is the second year in a row that a school district has said McBreairty harassed its employees or officials.

He pleaded guilty in October to improperly influencing a public official, a class D crime, by demanding that a Cumberland-area school board chair resign in exchange for McBreairty not publishing a recording of her deceased father.

McBreairty was issued a criminal trespass order from the same school district, School Administrative District 51, for repeatedly breaking district rules and for padlocking a sign to a school fence despite multiple warnings.  

The Hermon School Department will not bar McBreairty from continuing to attend school meetings if he “maintains the level of decorum required of all attendees,” Hewey said.

“The school department recognizes and supports Mr. McBreairty’s right to have and express his opinions on matters of public concern and it will take no steps to abridge his ability to exercise those rights,” she said.

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Lia Russell

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.