- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

A Maine legislator is investigating complaints that teachers harassed children of Maine National Guard members and says "there should be some dismissals" if the incidents are substantiated.
"I'm looking for any situations like that described by the National Guard and looking for any independent confirmation," said Republican state Rep. Michael A. Vaughan.
Maine National Guard officials reported last week that children of Guard members were "coming home upset, depressed, crying" as a result of incidents at school.
Guard members said their children had been told by teachers that war with Iraq was "unethical" and, in one reported incident, a teacher told a Guard member's child in elementary school that "daddy could die because that's what happens to soldiers."
No new incidents have been reported since Guard officials went public with the complaints, and spokesmen for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve said the Maine incidents do not appear to be part of a national trend.
Maine National Guard officials say they have collected 16 specific complaints, but are keeping those reports confidential and say they don't want a "witch hunt" against teachers.
"We have not given out any names or school districts. That is specifically to protect families," said the Rev. Andrew L. Gibson, Maine National Guard chaplain. "In addition to that, we don't want to have children singled out as the one who complained. For that matter, we don't want teachers singled out as having misspoken or whatever."
But Mr. Vaughan, whose state legislative district abuts Brunswick Naval Air Station, says he wants details and is asking parents or teachers to report any incidents to him.
"I'm sure most educators are as disappointed with this as I am," Mr. Vaughan said. "I'm sure they also consider this deplorable. There's one in every crowd, however. … I'm kind of hoping some of the educators will turn up the bad apples."
Maine's commissioner of education issued a letter admonishing school officials to be "sensitive" toward the children of military families, but Mr. Vaughan told the Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald last week, "I don't think a letter goes far enough. I believe there should be some dismissals, because that sort of activity does not belong in a school."
The complaints in Maine appear to be "an anomaly," said Army Reserve spokesman Steven Stromball.
"The news that I am hearing has been positive about students and school districts around the country," Mr. Stromball said.
Kathleen Gereski, spokeswoman for the Army National Guard, said the reports from Maine were "very surprising."
A "quick, informal survey" of Guard family-program coordinators around the nation found schools have shown "sensitivity toward the needs of children" of Guard members, Miss Gereski said.
"Many Guard units have been contacted by the schools to find out what they can do to be sensitive to the needs of children whose parents have been deployed or [are] in the process of mobilizing for deployment," she said.
She said news coverage of the Maine National Guard complaints "raised public awareness that these children are very vulnerable and we need to be careful how we deal with them."
Maine teachers, meanwhile, are upset that they have been portrayed as unpatriotic.
"From our Maine point of view, we love these kids and support the families of the military. We always have and always will," said Keith Harvey, spokesman for the Maine Education Association.
Many Maine educators serve in the National Guard, said Mr. Harvey, who noted that he is a Vietnam-era veteran.
"It does hurt to have people from other parts of the nation sending us e-mails … accusing us of trying to harass or taunt the children of our neighbors," he said.

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