- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

The "axis of evil" has some potential new members masquerading as elementary school teachers in Maine. According to extensive news reports corroborated by various state officials, dozens of children of soldiers from practically every region of Maine who have deployed to the Persian Gulf are being harassed by public school teachers, principals and guidance counselors because their parents are, as one report said, "bad people for participating in an unethical war with Iraq." Some students are as young as 7 to 9 years old.
Local news articles in the Maine news media disclosing the abuse curiously understated the incidents, citing officials' requests that teachers "be sensitive to the emotions of students in military families" rather than explicitly disclosing that the school employees are targeting military dependents for verbal abuse. Such an intolerable and cowardly abuse of power by taxpayer-funded public school employees should not go unchallenged.
Excerpts of the letter sent by a senior Maine Army National Guard official to reporters details this disturbing trend:
"In all, we have over thirty complaints that name schools and individual principals, teachers and guidance counselors. If one considers that these complaints come from just the parents who attended our [family assistance] briefings [for deploying Guardsmen] and only from children who told their parents, we are concerned that the problem may be more widespread than we know.
"Ultimately, our main concern and first responsibility is the safety of our children during these uncertain times. Maine has a core of dedicated and professional educators, but we will challenge any individual who places our children at risk due to their own political ideologies."
In a memo to superintendents of schools and principals on Feb. 25 Maine Education Commissioner J. Duke Albanese acknowledged the allegations exposed by the Maine Army National Guard. He wrote, in part:
"After discussions with Adjutant General and Commissioner Brigadier Joseph E. Tinkham II, I am asking you to remind school personnel that these are difficult times for our nation and that the families of military personnel need our sensitivity. As educational leaders in your community, you may receive calls, e-mail messages, or other forms of communication from people who are concerned about this issue. As you respond to the public or advise your district's educators and other staff, I encourage you to emphasize the importance of:
Providing balanced information in classrooms and other settings that present the differing perspectives of Americans regarding how our nation responds to Iraq. The content and discussion should allow for questions and differences of opinions, yet be grounded in civil discourse and mutual respect. Age and developmental appropriateness of materials are also important; and
Encouraging school counselors, nurses, and social workers to acknowledge the emotional and physical needs and concerns expressed by children and families involved with the Armed Services."
A review of the hundreds of internet message board postings in a few days showed how intense and emotionally-charged this issue has become for many people. Some examples:
"I think that Laura Bush needs to be informed. Right after September 11, [Mrs. Bush] made some appearances on television suggesting to parents and teachers to be sure to let their children know that they were loved and that they were safe…"
"These [educators] are the people who will remove a book from the school library if one student feels uncomfortable about a few words in the book. How intolerant they are and how hypocritical!!"
"Incidents like these do not help those of us in teaching who are sensitive to the situations and needs of our students. I not only have students whose parents are in the military and have been called up, but I have several Muslim children from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Talk about having to walk a tightrope…"
"This kind of ANTI-AMERICAN propaganda is not just in Maine… Right here in South Carolina, my son came home from 4th grade and told me that the counselor said that it was 'evil' for us to go to war with Iraq. I went 'controlled' ballistic I'm on the mobilization list for Army retirees and my wife is a GULF WAR I veteran…"
For updated messages on this topic, I recommend you visit the "Winds of Change" Web site at https://windsofchange.net/.
Finally, I felt it fitting to cite one particularly inspiring message board posting that perfectly captured my own feelings and perspectives:
"This [issue] needs to be splattered all over America to prevent other teachers in other states from traumatizing other children …. Congress should also be informed that these children of service members are being abused in this way."

Lt. Col. Matthew Dodd, a Marine, is a senior editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at E-mail: [email protected]

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