Thursday, April 24, 2014
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.
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
Ted Hall, Yarmouth High School's principal for the past eight years, said recruiters wear uniforms during visits "all the time."
"I can understand when we get accused of something that we did, but when we didn't do it, and don't do it, that's pretty frustrating," Hall said. "The accusation just isn't true."
Yarmouth was among eight high schools singled out by LePage in his weekly radio address Friday for restricting access to military recruiters. Officials at three of the schools have now said that the governor's claim is false.
LePage's accusations are apparently based on his interpretation of a May 22 email to Education Commissioner Steve Bowen from Sgt. Maj. Richard Hannibal of the Maine Army National Guard.
The email does not make it clear which schools allegedly prohibit uniformed recruiters, and Hannibal did not return a message Friday seeking comment. In a June interview with the Press Herald, he said he could not remember details of the email.
Public schools are already prohibited from barring military recruiters because of a provision in the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Schools risk losing federal funding for refusing to release student contact information to military recruiters or prohibiting them from entering their doors.
However, the issue has become politically charged in Maine following the defeat of L.D. 1503 this week in the Legislature. The bill would have ensured that military recruiters are granted the same access to schools as college recruiters.
Democrats who voted against the bill said it wasn't warranted because there is scant evidence that recruiters lack access to high schools or are prevented from wearing uniforms. Several Democrats said Republicans were using the bill as a political weapon to cast some Democrats as anti-military.
Republicans, including LePage, have since claimed that Democrats had disrespected the military and veterans. The debate escalated this week after 19 House Democrats switched their votes Tuesday to vote against the bill after previously supporting it, killing L.D. 1503 on the last day of the legislative session.
The Maine Republican Party on Wednesday called on Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud to condemn the vote. Michaud is exploring a run for governor in 2014 and has a reputation for being a strong advocate for military veterans. His Republican challengers in congressional races have tried to cut into that support.
LePage, who is running for reelection in 2014, said in his radio message that he was "disgusted" and "appalled" by the legislative Democrats who voted against the measure. The governor also blasted school superintendents who told the Press Herald in June that claims of restricting access were untrue.
"I'd bet my life on the word of a recruiter over a superintendent any day of the week and twice on Sunday," said LePage in his radio message.
Hall is the third different school official to rebut the administration's claim.
The Maine School Superintendents Association told the Press Herald in June that it was unaware of any recruiter issues in public schools.
Hall said Friday that neither a recruiter, nor any member of the LePage administration, ever asked about the allegations before submitting L.D. 1503 in May.
"One would think that if there was a problem someone would have called to ask us about it," said Hall.
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