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June 22, 07
V 35 Issue 25

 
 
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Students storm school board meeting over military recruitment in schools, ban on Gays
Students storm school board meeting over military recruitment in schools, ban on Gays
Ask school board to consider ban on recruiting during school hours

by Lisa Wardle - SGN Staff Writer

The armed forces have become more aggressive with recruits in recent years, due to the lack of soldiers currently enrolled in the service and are becoming increasingly more present in public schools. On Wednesday, June 20th, students responded in a similarly aggressive manner. An assortment of high school and college kids came together at the John Stanford Building to rally before storming into the Seattle Public School Board meeting.

Students felt the need to take action because certain schools, like Chief Sealth, currently see military visitors almost weekly. The armed forces are going into public schools to make up for the thousands of able and willing individuals who have been discharged for reasons of blatant discrimination, they argued. In 2005, the Army fell 6,600 troops short of its goal of 80,000 recruits, according to a Congressional Budget Office report. Additionally, willing Gay and Lesbian soldiers are being discharged from the service at an alarming rate. The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy bans homosexuals and Bisexuals from serving in the military and requires that they be dismissed if they are discovered to be Gay.

The youth populace in Seattle, the students on Wednesday claimed, feels that the recruiting techniques and overwhelming amount of propaganda are atrocious efforts from the military. Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) is a national network of student activists that organizes events to put a stop to the recruitment in schools. Many Seattle high school peace groups endorse the YAWR protests and walk-outs to show their objection to the current war and draft. The group recently proposed a policy to the Seattle School Board that would not allow recruiters (military, jobs, or colleges) onto the school grounds during the day. If passed, the policy would instead provide a "Recruitment Fair" once per semester where students could go to seek out opportunities for themselves.

Kristin Ebbling, one of the speakers at the rally, spoke of the students' efforts. "For the last couple of months since the walkout, our activists have attended each and every school board meeting," she said. "They told us that our public testimony was no longer welcome and directed us to the Student Learning Committee. So, we drafted our own policy, brought it to the Student Learning Committee a month ago, and our item of military recruitment is still not on the agenda."

President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act requires schools receiving government funds to allow all colleges, jobs, and military recruiters "equal access" to recruit students. It also forces schools to provide student information to recruiters upon request. Further, Senate Bill 6681 requires school districts to provide written notice to families about their right to request that student information not be released without written consent. However, if not signed within thirty days, the opt-out request would be void and schools would be obligated to release any information asked for by a recruiter.

If a student wants to pursue a career in the Navy, Army, or National Guard, there is more than enough information available to them outside of schools. There are thirteen military recruiting stations in Seattle alone. "[Our proposed policy] doesn't restrict students' access to colleges and jobs. Those institutions rarely come into schools anyway; it's the military recruiters who come," declared participant Ramy Khalil.

Speakers at the rally provided the crowd with facts as well as several hand-written folk songs made special for the event. Several people offered personal stories about their experiences with being drawn into the military out of high school. The protestors were all displeased by the techniques used by recruiters and conveyed their opinions with strong emotion.

"[The military recruiters] promote equity and fairness, but what they end up doing is targeting people of color and low income. They don't really target Roosevelt," stated Matthew Pfeiffer of Nova High School.

"The military is full of rampant homophobia, sexism, and racism. Our schools have taken a stand against those things, so, why should they invite institutions with those views into our schools?" said Shanay Salas, one of the main student speakers.

The School Board banned students from entering the building with signs posted on sticks, so students aptly tore off the posts and marched in with hands and heads held high chanting "Yo, School Board, what's up? We're here to say we've had enough."

Upon entering the room, students poured into the front section, in front of the podium, and several posed a "die-in" to convey their anti-war message. The School Board refused to hold the meeting as long as the protestors were occupying the floor space. The microphones and cameras were shut off, so the activists used a blowhorn to speak their voices.

After about an hour of trying to compromise between the two groups, board member Darlene Flynn addressed the room, saying that the School Board was moving the meeting into a private conference room. "This is what democracy looks like," she said. "But it's not what a School Board meeting looks like."

Students proceeded to present the public testimonies originally planned, speaking through the blowhorn to an audience--absent the Seattle School Board. A select number of the scheduled speakers still addressed the audience and added a few words to their speeches about the students' cause. However, the majority of public speakers refused to take part in the student-led meeting, saying that it was pointless without any officials in the room.

"Public testimony is meant for the School Board, you're talking to yourselves!" yelled Kary Schnieder, who was scheduled to speak in the planned meeting.

After all of the speakers (who wished to) told their statements, the protestors left the room and regrouped on the lawn outside. The School Board continued their meeting at 8 p.m., disregarding the three hour rally and protest that had taken place.

"I thought that it was a good step," said Matilda Fease. She and her friends remained on the building's premises to share opinions of the protest and collect ideas for future efforts.

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