CAMDEN — The Civil Rights Team at Camden Hills Regional High School raised awareness and welcomed new members Nov. 4, in sync with the 25th anniversary of The Maine Civil Rights Team Project.

Camden Hills is one of over  170 elementary, middle and high schools in Maine with Civil Rights Teams, according to Social Studies teacher Michele Metzler, who is an advisor to the team with Counselor Johanna Billington. Teams across the state were encouraged to join in with a variety of activities this November.

Maggie Metzler and other students handed out stickers inside the front entrance of the school and distributed information about the team. Metzler drew a quick poster for the event, with the team’s mission statement: “To increase respectful behavior and safety in our school while reducing incidents of bias-motivated behaviors and harassment. We want all students, staff and visitors to feel safe, welcomed and respected as individuals while in our school and community.” She is a new student at the high school, and was a member of a civil rights team in her middle school.

The Civil Rights Team has a new Instagram page and online presence so students can feel more connected, and is encouraging anyone to follow. Students can also communicate with the team using Schoology, one of the high school’s online platforms.

A civil rights team is a place where conversations about gender, sexual orientation, race and skin color, religion, disabilities, and national origin and ancestry can take place, according to Metzler and Billington.

“The goal is for the team to be a student-led organization, to look at the different areas of the school where we can increase welcoming, decrease barriers to feeling part of the community for students and adults, and to make the community a better place for everyone,” Metzler said. Another important aspect is making sure everyone is being served equitably at the school, Billington said.

From spring 2020 through spring 2021, COVID pandemic restrictions affected extracurricular activities and in person meetings.

The Civil Rights Team is meeting in person again, after school every other Tuesday, and working to regain momentum and bring in new members.

Before the pandemic, a statewide conference of the civil rights teams was held in Augusta, and there is hope that will happen again in the future.