Summer Update

Report on Counter-Recruiting Activity:

       As I reported to the Portland School Board in May, we are, overall, pleased with the implementation of the new Equal Access policy during this current school year.  Our volunteers staffed information tables 24 times this year—2 or 3 times at each of the PPS high schools.  Military recruiters from the different Armed Forces branches were present during each of those visits and, to my knowledge, not recruiting students at other times.
     To start things off, school district administrators sent a memo to high school principals last August recommending that each school schedule three visits per year, inviting both military recruiters and counter-recruiters to participate.  Not all visits went smoothly, as high school staff sometimes struggled to make the arrangements fair and equitable for all; but we have seen improvements in communication and the structure of the visits as the year has progressed.
     Military recruiters were obviously disturbed by the new arrangements for equal access and began pushing against the rules and reasonable decorum during school visits.  They did so by sending twice as many uniformed recruiters as was needed to staff their tables, they passed out expensive gifts and prizes to students that were well above the $5.00 limit imposed by the school district, and they tried to engage students who had not signed up to speak with them and had no interest in military enlistment.  The Marine recruiters even brought their chinning bar to a couple of school visits, and we responded by filing a complaint with district administrators.
     Equal access is still a “work in progress” and may never be truly equal.  Nonetheless, it allows us to monitor military recruiter activity and provide students with the balance of information and perspective that they deserve.  As students figure out who we are and what we have to offer, our effectiveness is bound to increase.
     Besides equal access visits, our volunteers also distributed basic counter-recruitment information to students from public sidewalks in front of the high schools, we gave a dozen panel presentations (with local veterans) in high school classrooms, and we purchased ads in high school newspapers throughout the Portland metro area.  With additional volunteers and increased funding, we could expand our counter-recruitment organizing to other schools and communities beyond Portland Public Schools.  Help us get there.                                             

Shooting Ranges in High Schools:

     There are now approximately 3,400 secondary schools in the U.S. with units of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), a military training and recruiting program open to students as young as age 14.  Founded in 1916, it is operated jointly by the host schools and individual military branches.  Instructors are retired military officers employed by the local school district.  Over half a million students are enrolled in the program and attend daily classes that teach them military customs and demeanor.  They are assigned ranks, are required to wear uniforms at least once a week, learn to march, and study history, civics and other subjects from Pentagon-supplied textbooks.
     Marksmanship training is an optional component of JROTC and is used as a magnet to boost student enrollment in the program.  The Civilian Marksmanship Program, which promotes youth involvement with guns and collaborates with JROTC, has stated that at least two-thirds of all JROTC units include marksmanship training.  If true, this means that marksmanship training exists in over 2,200 U.S. high schools.
     The issue became a major focus of debate in the San Diego Unified School District in 2007, when teachers and students discovered plans to install new JROTC shooting ranges at two high schools.  This plan would bring the total number of shooting ranges in San Diego schools to 11 out of its 13 schools.  These facts provoked an intense campaign of protest that is unusual for such a location as San Diego, which hosts one of the largest military complexes in the world.
     The coalition’s campaign lasted 14 months.  Despite the military’s dominant influence in the city and the NRA’s involvement, the campaign succeeded in all of its goals, including a 3 to 2 vote by the school board to ban marksmanship training throughout the school district.
[Excerpts from an article by Rick Jahnkow - Project YANO, San Diego, CA]
Note: There are 5 JROTC programs in Oregon, the closest being at Reynolds H.S. (in Troutdale), Oregon City H.S. and North Salem H.S.  We do not yet know if these programs include shooting ranges.

In response to our January fundraising letter, the Military & Draft Counseling Project raised a total of $965.00 for Equal Access and other counter-recruitment organizing.  Thank you!