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Anchorage School District bans military recruiters indefinitely

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 20, 2014

On the heels of scathing allegations of sexual and other misconduct against officers in the Alaska Army National Guard, the Anchorage School District has halted all military recruiting at its schools indefinitely, according to Heidi Embley, district spokeswoman.

Ed Graff, district superintendent, started alerting all branches of the military Monday that they could no longer recruit on school property until they met individually with Graff to "discuss student safety and other issues," Embley said.

Embley said Graff's action came in the wake of media reports on leaked investigative files that describe sexual misconduct in the Alaska Army National Guard, some accounts involving high school students.

According to the files, a former student at Dimond High School in Anchorage said that an officer repeatedly asked her out on dates. The woman said that the officer told her she was pretty and that her eyes "stunned" him. When he tried to take her to his home, she jumped out of the car and used a stranger's phone to call her father for help.

Two other former Dimond High students said the same officer invited them to parties where there would be alcohol. They were underage. A sergeant said the officer bragged about having sex with several people, including a high school student, according to the files prepared between 2010 and 2014.

In a statement Monday, Candis Olmstead, public affairs director for the Alaska Army National Guard, wrote that the guard was "disappointed that the Anchorage School District feels that they have to keep our recruiters off of their campuses."

"Issues being reported in the media stem from concerns that have been worked through in recruiting," she wrote. "Personnel changes were made and our new recruiters went through an extensive vetting process before they were hired, including background checks."

Lt. Col. Charles Knowles, commander of the guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion since June 2012, wrote in a statement that the reports from several years ago do not reflect "who we are now."

"I believe the partnership recruiters have with high schools is beneficial for the schools, the military components, and most importantly, the students," Knowles wrote.

Knowles wrote that the guard has six recruiters working in the Anchorage School District and one who recruits from the Alaska Military Youth Academy.

According to district policy, all recruiters -- including military, employment and postsecondary education -- may visit each high school up to four times a year. All visits are to be announced in the school's newsletter, daily bulletin and website. The district does not permit private appointments between recruiters and students on campus.

Embley said she expects Graff will sit down with representatives from the military branches next week.

"As part of the investigation, nothing has come out that there was any alleged inappropriate activity on our school grounds, but we are going to do whatever we can to ensure student safety," Embley said.

Graff said he had not heard any allegations of recruiter misconduct involving high schoolers until reading the media reports.

He said the district will review its reporting procedures and adult-student boundaries. He expects to discuss with the military representatives their recruiting practices and to clarify the district's expectations, he said.

"Those meetings have to take place and I have to feel comfortable with things before we permit any more visits with students on our campuses," Graff said.

He added: "This is absolutely unacceptable."

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