This news is a few weeks old but important nonetheless. High school students in the Twin Cities area, as part of the Youth Against War and Racism coalition, are doing some major organizing to curtail the access of military recruiters to their schools.
You can contact the school board to voice your solidarity and support for the students here. The board members are up for re-election – you might want to send ’em a note of disappointment with their decision.
From Pulse of Twin Cities:
Last November, students from Central High Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) sent an open letter to the St. Paul Board of Education demanding substantial restrictions on military recruitment in all district schools.
Central YAWR gathered hundreds of student signatures on petitions demanding military recruiters, who regularly set up elaborate lunch-room tables, be restricted to school career centers; that all contact with students be supervised by school officials to combat the well-documented pattern of deception and manipulation recruiters use in order to fill their monthly recruitment quotas; and that the military be barred from visiting schools more frequently than other post-secondary institutions.
Students were careful to craft their demands within the legal framework established by No Child Left Behind, so the Board could substantially restrict recruiters without risking loss of federal funds.
YAWR mobilized over 60 community supporters, carrying signs reading “Demilitarize Our Schools,” to the December Board of Education meeting. Teachers, parents, veterans, military families and students themselves flooded the public comment period, providing powerful testimony against military recruiters’ manipulative tactics and lies, and against the unjust war that Minnesota youth are being recruited to kill and die for.
In January, Central High students met with board members and, in a room packed with military recruiters, provided added testimony during a special board committee meeting. Board members showered the students with praise for their professionalism and gave the impression that their demands were being taken seriously.
After two months of “investigations,” however, the Board of Education met on March 27 and chose to ignore student demands. “Essentially they did very little,” said Sean Foltin, a senior with Central High YAWR. “They just referred the issue [of military recruiters’ heavy presence in schools] back to school principals.”
Attempting to frame the decision as a “compromise,” the board agreed to allow minors to sign their own opt-out forms to prevent their personal information from being turned over to the military. “They took the issue of opt-out forms, which had been a very small part of our demands, and blew it out of proportion,” explained Sean. “I’m definitely disappointed with the results.”
Brandon Madsen, a full-time organizer with YAWR, responded angrily to the decision: “This is a slap in the face – I hope they don’t think this means we’ll just walk away. The truth is that going into this campaign last fall, we didn’t have a lot of hope the board would actually pass our demands. But we wanted to go through the official process and see what happened. Now we know that walkouts and more serious direct action by students will be needed to get the military out of our schools … It seems that aggressively confronting the recruiters every time they show up is the only thing that works” to get recruiters to leave school lunchrooms.
Editor’s note: Four St. Paul School Board members are up for re-election this year: Tom Conlon, Anne Carroll, Kazoua Kong-Thao and Al Oertwig. If more than eight candidates file for office, a primary will be held on Sept. 11. The general election is Nov. 6.