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Mat-Su joins Anchorage in suspending military recruiting at schools

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 21, 2014

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District on Tuesday joined the Anchorage School District in temporarily barring military recruiters on school grounds.

Both announcements came in the wake of media reports on leaked investigative files that describe years of alleged sexual assaults, harassment and other misconduct in the Alaska Army National Guard, some cases involving recruiters and high school students.

Deena Paramo, Mat-Su schools superintendent, said Tuesday she plans to meet individually with recruiters from all branches of the military next week "to make sure their expectations of safety and protocol match the district's."

"Our goal is to not vilify the military," Paramo said. She said the meetings are "looked at by us as a positive communication so we can move forward."

"We're looking for a speedy discussion and a speedy resolution," she said.

On Monday, ASD Superintendent Ed Graff called the alleged misconduct between guard recruiters and high-schoolers "absolutely unacceptable" after he indefinitely halted all military recruiting at Anchorage schools.

Graff also said he would meet with military recruiters individually next week to clarify the district's expectations, while also reviewing district reporting procedures and adult-student boundaries.

In investigative files prepared between 2010 and 2014, former students at Anchorage's Dimond High School said a guard officer invited them to parties where there would be alcohol. Another former student said an officer repeatedly asked her out on dates and when he tried to take her to his home, she jumped out of the car. She used a stranger's phone to call her father for help, according to the files.

In response to the school districts' actions, the Alaska Army National Guard said the recruiting team had changed since Lt. Col. Charles Knowles was hired as commander of the guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion in June 2012.

"He has rebuilt the recruiting team and has brought assigned strength up to 100 percent," wrote Candis Olmstead, public affairs director for the Alaska Army National Guard, in a statement Tuesday.

Olmstead wrote that Knowles reassigned six recruiters to duties outside the recruiting office. Another recruiter left the local unit, one was fired from his position and another was assigned a temporary duty "pending administrative actions."

On Monday, Knowles wrote in a statement that he was "disappointed that the Anchorage School District feels that they have to keep our recruiters off of their campuses."

He wrote in an email Tuesday evening that he had not received direct communication from the Mat-Su schools about any changes in their partnership with recruiters.

The National Guard has nine Alaska recruiting locations. Knowles wrote that recruiters visit high schools statewide but mostly interact with students who live on the road system. However, he added, recruiters in Juneau and Bethel can travel by air to other schools in the area.

Knowles said he estimates that the guard enlists between 125 and 150 high school students each year in Alaska.

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