- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

National Guard members said yesterday they have no complaints with the way local schools are handling the prospect of a war with Iraq even though Americans' views are mixed.
Dan Allen, a member of the Virginia National Guard, said teachers at his daughter's school in Fairfax County have been "very supportive" when discussing war.
"Schools have been talking to them about the war in general terms without any editorial comment whatsoever," Mr. Allen said. "There has been no hint or indication that teachers voice any views of their own."
Mr. Allen's comments came a week after The Washington Times reported that members of the Maine National Guard said their children were being harassed at school by teachers opposed to U.S.-led military action against Iraq. As a result, state legislators have asked for an investigation into the accusations.
Maine National Guard officials told The Times last month that children were coming home "upset, depressed and crying" because of the harassment.
At schools in the Washington area, residents and public officials remain affected by the September 11 attack on the Pentagon and anthrax poisonings shortly afterward.
Clementine Homesley, the principal at Leckie Elementary School in Southwest, said she and her staff work to keep student achievement high and that personal opinions have no place in the classroom.
Leckie Elementary lost student Bernard Brown, 11, and teacher Hilda Taylor in the attack on the Pentagon.
"We as a staff have not taken any position, and we are staying focused on the goals of the school year," Mrs. Homesley said. "Any philosophical opinions being discussed we leave to families. We just teach children."
Mrs. Homesley said her teachers stick to the curriculum, so they haven't discussed a war with Iraq. "We're nurturing and about the business of making sure children are OK," she said.
She said the school has a mentoring program through Bolling Air Force Base and Fort Belvoir. Many of the volunteers come from the 11th Wing Branch to tutor students and serve as role models. If a student expresses concern about the impending war, Mrs. Homesley said, military mentors will handle the situation objectively.
Maj. Donnie Coleman, with the 352 D Civil Affairs Command, said she would know about any large-scale harassment of National Guard members or their children. As the unit's Family Readiness Liaison, Miss Coleman works closely with mobilized soldiers and their families.
"Although, we have had some problems with children making adjustments to the absence of parents, I haven't heard anything about this matter, which doesn't mean it's not happening," said Miss Coleman, who is based in Hyattsville. "My guess is that if something of that magnitude was taking place, we would know about it."
Renee Bess, a reservist with the 352 D Civil Affairs Command in Hyattsville, said opinions about war should be left for adults to discuss outside the classroom. Her son attends Thomas Johnson Middle School in Lanham and her daughter attends kindergarten at Glenn Dale Elementary School.
"Teachers are more sensitive here, even if they have their own personal opinions, they would not voice them to students," said Ms. Bess, of Glenn Dale. "It's enough that the war is a possibility. A family member having to go to war is a sensitive subject. You can have a conversation with an adult about your opinions but not with a child because of its impact."
Maj. Todd Stewart, 41, of the Maryland National Guard, the executive officer for the 2-115 Infantry Battalion in Chestertown, Md., said his three sons aren't being harassed because of his military position.
When the father of his son's best friend was deployed in early January, Mr. Stewart, of Elkton, Md., said he had a man-to-man talk with his 9-year-old son, Grant.
"I tried to reassure him and I talk with the older boys about the war," Mr. Stewart said. "I told them that as a Guardsman, I would not be in combat, but placed in a position that is not in harm's way. That put their minds at ease."

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