Acting Commissioner Rier writes in support of uniformed access to Maine schools

The Maine Legislature’s Education Committee held a public hearing today on legislation that would require the boards of Maine secondary schools to adopt and implement policies ensuring that members of the United States Armed Forces or the Maine National Guard and public safety personnel may wear their uniforms when visiting schools in their official capacities.

Acting Education Commissioner Jim Rier submitted the following letter to the Committee in support:

Senator Millett, Representative MacDonald, and Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs:

I am writing on behalf of Governor LePage and the Department of Education in support of LD 1579, An Act to Authorize Public Safety Personnel and Members of the Military to Wear Their Uniforms When Visiting Schools in Their Official Capacities.

As you may remember, our Department supported a similar bill to ensure student access to uniformed recruiters that was introduced by Governor LePage during the First Regular Session of this Legislature. While we were deeply disappointed that ultimately did not pass, we are pleased to see that this important issue is again being addressed, and that the bill has been expanded to include other public safety personnel and now appears to have the bipartisan support it deserves.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, a school that receives federal funds must provide military recruiters with the same access to students as it provides to private employers, institutions of higher education and other post-secondary recruiters.  Maine schools are consistently compliant with this provision, but credible reports were brought to our Department last year that some schools were not allowing those recruiters to appear in their service uniforms, something that is not only symbolic but also is an important identifier that ensures transparency to our students.

Public service  to our local communities as a firefighter or police officer or to our country as a member of the United States Armed Forces or the Maine National Guard – is something to which all Maine students can aspire and to which all Maine students should have equal opportunity to explore. By requiring that all Maine high schools put in place a policy supporting uniformed access to military and public safety personnel, we can be assured this problem – however small we hope it to be – is appropriately addressed and prevented from arising again in the future, and that students, parents, educators and military and public safety personnel have a shared understanding as it relates to the expectations of uniformed access to our schools.