Man arrested at Tony Blair speech alleges blacklisting as Hampden Academy sub

Posted May 30, 2012, at 5:59 p.m.
Lawrence Reichard
Lawrence Reichard

HAMPDEN, Maine — For the last eight years, Lawrence Reichard said his phone has rung regularly on weekday mornings as he was called to substitute-teach at Hampden Academy and other high schools.

Over the last week and a half, the phone has been silent, and due to conversations he said he has had with at least one school administrator, he’s not expecting it to ring anytime soon.

Reichard, an Occupy Bangor member who was arrested for disrupting a speech by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair during Colby College’s commencement ceremony earlier this month, alleged in a press release Wednesday that he has been fired or blacklisted by the school as a substitute teacher because of that incident.

“I haven’t seen his press release,” said Richard Lyons, superintendent of Maine School Administrative District 22. “He is a substitute, not an employee. He hasn’t been fired. He’s still an as-needed employee.”

Reichard said he was called to substitute-teach for 12 of the previous 16 school days before his May 20 arrest but has not been called since.

“I would not assume that just on not being called over the last week,” Reichard said. “But taken in conjunction with the things said to me, that’s what makes me draw the conclusion that I’ve been fired.”

Reichard said he has had several conversations with a Hampden Academy administrator who initially told him to keep a low profile after the arrest, which he says he did. The administrator, whom Reichard declined to identify, reportedly told Reichard that his presence at the school “created a carnival-like atmosphere” there and that he should probably apply to substitute elsewhere because school officials wanted things to calm down a bit.

“I absolutely do not expect them to be calling me again,” Reichard said.

Lyons said Reichard would be called on an as-needed basis, as Hampden’s substitutes usually are.

“If we have a physics teacher out, we would look at the substitutes we have on call and then align the one with the best credentials or skills to fill that teaching vacancy,” Lyons explained. “Regarding Mr. Reichard, I would say yes, he’s on the list, and based on the teacher who happens to be out, whoever on that list best fits the needs for filling that vacancy would be called.”

Lyons also pointed out that the frequency of sick days is typically much lower this time of year than in the winter — or especially the cold and flu season earlier in the year.

“When I was called to substitute for 12 of those 16 days, it wasn’t winter,” Reichard said. “And I think the evidence is there that what has taken place is essentially my firing. I’m not surprised to hear them say this is not the case, but I don’t think they’re being candid.”

Reichard said he has been a Hampden Academy substitute for more than eight years and that he typically exceeds his personal goal of subbing 50 percent of the school year.

“Even in 2010, when there were several weeks lost via my unavailability due to vacation time, I subbed for 80 of the 189 school days,” he said.

Reichard is due to appear in Waterville District Court for a hearing on the Colby incident on Aug. 21. He hasn’t decided whether he will contest the charges.

“I think it’s ironic they are talking about this being a carnival-like atmosphere,” Reichard said. “If that’s true, I would say it’s not a bad thing that students are talking about something besides iPads, Xbox, and ‘American Idol’ for a change.”

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