Thursday, April 24, 2014
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In this March 2012 file photo, U.S. Army recruiters Sgt. Stephen Wallace (left) and Sfc. Brandon Didier talk with students at the Portland Arts and Technology High School. Gov. Paul LePage’s claim that military recruiters aren’t allowed to wear their uniforms at Yarmouth High School is untrue, according to the principal of the school.
John Ewing / Staff Photographer
Hannibal, the National Guard officer, said in his email to Education Commissioner Bowen that seven schools in southern Maine allowed "minimal access," including Oak Hill, Noble, Wells, York, Kennebunk, Gorham and Yarmouth high schools.
Hannibal wrote that Yarmouth and Portland high schools allow parents to remove their students' names from a master list of junior and senior students before the list is distributed to recruiters.
He also wrote that "individual high schools" won't let recruiters wear uniforms -- but he didn't name any specific school that allegedly does so.
In his weekly radio address, however, LePage said Yarmouth and Portland banned uniformed recruiters.
Hannibal did not respond to three messages left on his cellphone Friday.
Portland officials also could not immediately be reached for comment.
Hall, the Yarmouth principal, said the high school's policy for recruiters is the same for the military as it is for colleges -- and as required by federal law.
Recruiters are allowed to meet with students "in small groups or as individuals, and to meet with our guidance counselors to best meet the needs of our students," Hall wrote in a statement issued Friday.
"Military recruiters have always been welcome in the school," he added. "We welcome members of the military to come to the school in their uniforms, whether it is for recruiting purposes or simply to come back to visit their high school and interact with current students."
He said students are also allowed to miss class to meet with recruiters.
Hall also sent a letter to parents Friday to clear up "misinformation" about the school's policy.
This year, the governor introduced L.D. 1503, claiming that some schools weren't allowing military recruiters to wear their uniforms or restricting visits. Democrats challenged that claim during the bill's public hearing March 31, when Bowen was asked to produce evidence of a problem.
Bowen initially declined to name schools, citing concerns from recruiters that doing so would damage the recruiters' relationship with school officials.
Bowen eventually told Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, in an email June 6 that recruiters were required to dress in civilian clothes when working at Noble High School in North Berwick and at Sanford High School.
Both schools have rebutted that claim.
Steven Connolly, superintendent for RSU 60, which includes Noble High School, told the Press Herald last month that the school has no policy barring recruiters from wearing uniforms. He added that he had seen students perform pull-ups and push-ups in the school lobby recently during a recruiting event attended by a uniformed Marine.
Sanford Superintendent David Theoharides told the Press Herald that uniformed recruiters were "always allowed" at the high school.
Rep. Joshua Plante, D-Berwick, said during Tuesday's floor debate that the claims against Noble were "unbelievable."
"This is a lie," he said. "I'm not going to accept a lie and I don't appreciate that my school has been labeled as one that does this when it is not true just to push a political agenda."
The military recruiter provision was added to No Child Left Behind in 2002. The military had struggled to hit recruitment quotas prior to enactment of the recruiter provision. The Army spent $24,500 per student, according to a 2003 Government Accountability Office report.
Since NCLB, the military has used data mining to target potential recruits.
The Department of Defense collects data through JAMRS, which compiles the names, addresses, cellphone numbers, ethnicity and Social Security numbers of students aged 16 to 25 for the purpose of service recruitment.
Critics of the system claim military recruiters use the database for coercive practices.
Students are allowed to opt out of the database; however, few did until a number of school districts across the country launched awareness campaigns.
In 2005, the Portland School District was one of the schools that launched an opt-out campaign. The effort was led by the Green Independent Party, which at the time had several members on the Portland School Committee.
That same year, the committee passed a military recruitment policy that barred recruiters from high school cafeterias and limited their visits to Portland and Deering high schools to seven per school year.
Prior to the policy, school committee members said military recruiters visited the schools up to 28 times during an academic year.
Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: