Thursday, September 15, 2005

From Carrie Hathorn, Seattle WA

The Sept 7th school board action was a victory for the
anti-war and counter-recruitment movement.
Counter-recruiters, peace groups, and anti-war
activists won equal access to students and the right
to go onto public school campus!! Last week we took a
radical stand to kick recruiters out of our schools,
applying intense pressure on the school board and they
felt it. The school board passed a resolution
imposing a number of regulations and restrictions on
what military recruiters are allowed to do in Seattle
schools and if recruiters do not follow these rules,
they can be kicked off campus.

More than 50 community activists showed up to the
school board action wearing anti-war buttons and
shirts, holding signs and banners. We were visible,
on target with our message and dominated the school
board meeting. Over 20 counter-recruitment activists
passionately testified even though the school board
tried to throw a wrench in our speakers line up.
Unlike the previous school board meeting they enforced
a strict policy requiring the person scheduled testify
to be there in person to concede their time to some
one else. So even though we organized community
members to reserve speaking slots and knew who would
and wouldn’t be there to testify and who wanted to
speak in their place the school board did not alloy
anyone to testify in the place of someone who wasn’t
there to concede their time in person. But we didn’t
let them stop us, we reacted and re-organized. So for
next time if you reserved a spot to speak you must
show up, weither or not you plan to speak.

Our action and press releases were so successful that
the Seattle P-I, National Public Radio, Portland
Public Radio, and KIRO TV all covered the story.
Kiro 7 reported that "we packed the school board
meeting demanding to kick recruiters out of our
schools". In fact Jorge Torres, Ramy Khalil and Dianne
King all got air time testifying on KIRO TV which
aired September 8th and 9th. Jeff Rice was also
quoted in a voice over as the camera scanned the room
of activists. The next day our story was the front
page of the local section of the PI which Gus Seixas
and Jeff were quoted. We are now in the process of
trying to get more national media coverage of this
victory. Let’s keep the Seattle Counter-recruitment
movement in the spotlight!!


Now that counter-recruiters have equal access on
school campuses it’s up to us to go into the schools
and make direct contact with students through
teach-inn’s, tabling during lunch and flyering before,
during and after school. We need to help students
organize student groups to plan for the walkout. We
must also organize parents, teachers and community
members to keep the pressure on the school board until
recruiters are out of our schools!!
***
By Josh Mally, Seattle

Thursday, September 8th, 2005
The Seattle School Board meeting was on the front
lines of the struggle against the war in Iraq
Wednesday night as the Board heard citizen comments
and voted on a district-wide policy on military
recruitment.
As the occupation drags on, peace activists nationwide
are increasingly turning their attention to the high
schools and colleges in which the military recruits.
More than 50 community activists attended the School
Board meeting to support greater restrictions on the
activities of military recruiters in Seattle high
schools.

Several of the speakers were members of organizations
working together as the Opt-Out, Walk-Out Coalition,
which calls for a comprehensive ban on military
recruitment in Seattle schools, and demands that the
school board make it as easy as possible for students
to “opt out” of having their contact information
provided to the military.

The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act makes federal
education funding contingent on schools providing
equal access to military recruiters and also requires
schools to automatically provide contact information
to the military unless parents or students complete
and submit an “opt-out” form. Washington State also
gives the military access to students’ WASL test
scores, family income, race and Social Security number
and state law also requires schools to grant access to
military recruiters.

Several speakers alleged that the military targets
economically disadvantaged youth and minorities, and
that that recruiters exaggerate the educational and
vocational opportunities available through the
military and de-emphasize the hard facts of military
life: soldiers are much more likely to be killed or
injured and to kill others than their civilian
counterparts, and having once enlisted, a soldier
cannot freely quit the service.

“We disagree with military recruitment in schools,”
said Jeff Rice, a student speaking on behalf of a
Philippine student organization, “because it tends to
affect poor people of color.”

Jorges Torres, another student, said “when the
military is allowed to lie to my family and friends in
places of education, we lose. But when they are no
longer allowed on school grounds, we’ll win; and it
will be a real victory for our communities.”

Maj. Forrest Poole, a military recruiter, urged the
Board to maintain a “controlled, open and fair
environment,” where “students and recruiters do not
feel bullied or harassed,” a probable reference to the
incident last year at Seattle Central Community
College in which anti-war students engaged in a
walk-out destroyed recruiting materials and physically
forced the recruiters out of the building.

Poole noted that students are already required to have
parental permission to miss class for recruiting
appointments and argued that students who might be
interested in a military career “won’t have the
opportunity to serve their country in the way they
would like to” under a more stringent recruitment
policy, adding that such a policy might “jeopardize
our ability to provide defense for the United States.”
Opinions were divided as to what attitude the Board
should take toward its obligations under the No Child
Left Behind Act. The proposal before the Board (which
was unanimously adopted) consolidated four existing
policies on visitors to schools and provided model
language on visitors in order to provide a more
uniform policy (and uniform level of access) across
the district.

The policy is implicitly understood as an attempt to
constrain the activity of military recruiters while
appearing even handed and complying with state and
federal law. But whether it actually constrains or
empowers them remains to be seen.

In West Seattle High School, where 10 percent of the
2003-2004 graduating class joined the armed forces, an
internal school district survey, distributed at the
meeting, revealed that each branch of the armed forces
are allowed one visit per month (their actual
recruiting activity “varies”).

At Franklin High School where military recruiters are
reported to visit twice per month, 5 percent of the
2003-2004 graduating class enlisted. At Nathan Hale
and Ingraham high schools, where military recruiters
are allowed to visit monthly and actually visit
“occasionally,” 2 percent of their graduating classes
joined the service.

Whereas, at Roosevelt High School, where recruiters of
all kinds visit only once per year in the fall, none
of the 2003-2004 graduating class joined the armed
forces. And at the Nova Project where all types of
recruiters only once per year for one hour, no one
enlisted in 2003-2004. Frequency of exposure appears
to be a factor among others.

Several citizen speakers challenged the Directors to
take a stronger stance. Citizen Gus Seixas seemed to
express the sense of the Opt-Out, Walk-Out Coalition
when he exhorted the Board, “You have the power.
Stand up to the federal government!” He claimed that
the Chicago and New York City school districts have
banned recruiters and have so far not been subject to
any federal retaliation. Later, Director Bass
actually directed the District’s attorney, Holly
Ferguson, to start tracking those cases, presumably to
assess the level of risk associated with an outright
ban.
Another citizen Chris Jackins argued that “the simple
and direct solution is to ban all recruiters,”
including educational recruiters.

The Board seemed generally supportive of the
community’s demands, within the perceived limits of
their institutional obligations.

Director Flynn called military recruitment of minority
and economically disadvantaged youth “a social justice
issue,” saying that “it is wrong that some people’s
only road to [higher] education is through the
military... And it is wrong for the military to take
advantage of that situation,” but added that it was a
larger problem than the School Board could reasonably
be expected to solve.

Director Soriano had previously asked Ferguson to
research whether the District’s policy against
discrimination based on sexual orientation could
provide a loophole to keep the “don’t ask, don’t tell”
military out the schools. (Several university law
departments have made a similar legal challenge.)
Ferguson said the universities’ case has been upheld
by the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which doesn’t
apply to us here in the 9th District, but that the
case will almost certainly be heard in the Supreme
Court next year. She promised to watch it closely.

Meanwhile, the Opt-Out Walk-Out Coalition members
vowed to continue working for a total ban on military
recruitment.

[Percentages of 2003-2004 graduating class to join the
military can be found in the Seattle Times School
Guide (http://schoolguide.seattletimes.nwsource.com)
For a copy of the chart showing the level of recruiter
access to schools, contact the Seattle School
District.]

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