School chief who blamed attack on Trump doubles down

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A school superintendent who drew the wrath of the Maine Republican Party for linking a hate crime with President Donald Trump’s administration said Monday that he stands by his statements.

Maine GOP has said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Xavier Botana created a hostile political environment in the city’s public schools in the wake of the Jan. 27 attack on several black students. Maine GOP has said it will issue a Maine Freedom of Access Act request for Botana’s written communications related to his “political agenda.”

Botana said he welcomed the request, which he has not yet received, and remained convinced Trump’s antagonism toward immigrants and minorities played a role in the attack outside Casco Bay High School.

Maine GOP has accused Botana of forcing students to “give up taxpayer-funded school time to engage in a partisan agenda promoted by school district officials.” The GOP referred to demonstrations students held outside high schools in the city.

Botana said Monday that the students participated in the events voluntarily. He said the way he characterized the attacks was accurate, and important to provide context for families in the district.

“I felt it was important to go beyond just reporting the incident at Casco Bay and try to contextualize it in terms of the concerns being felt by many of our students and many of our families,” he said.

Maine GOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. The party announced its plan to request Botana’s correspondence on Feb. 3.

Police arrested 20-year-old Jamie Hoffman, of Portland, last week on charges stemming from the attack on black students. He was scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday in Portland.

Police have said the incident happened when Hoffman, a Cuban immigrant, verbally accosted a group of black students while they were waiting for a bus near the school. Other students came to their aid and were assaulted by Hoffman, police said. Police have also said Hoffman displayed a screwdriver in a threatening manner during the incident.

Hoffman was being held at Cumberland County Jail on Monday. He faces charges including interfering with constitutional and civil rights while committing assault, and his case has been forwarded to the state for consideration under the Maine Civil Rights Act.

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