Protestors lay on the floor, which was tinged with fake blood, to represent those killed during war. Protesters shouted, “What do we want? Recruiters out! When do we want it? Now!”
This was the scene Wednesday evening as activists took a stand against military recruitment in public schools at the Seattle School Board meeting.
Students, teachers, parents and other anti-war activists want to restrict military recruiters to a once-a-semester, district-wide recruitment fair.
Sophomore Kayla Hauck, president of the UW’s Socialist Alternative Club, said the event gave students a chance to be involved.
“Even though we are in college it is important to be aware of what’s going on in high schools,” Hauck said, emphasizing issues that affect college students.
Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR), an anti-war activist group, orchestrated the protest.
“Military recruiters give the promise of free education and a good job, which are actually massive lies,” said Philip Locker, an organizer of the protest for YAWR.
Locker said the board is avoiding the group and not enforcing restrictions on military recruitment, so taking direct action is an important step in YAWR’s cause, as Wednesday’s protest shows.
Hauck said YAWR is making continuous efforts to meet with lawyers and get on the school board’s agenda.
President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires public high schools to give students’ contact information to the military upon request and allows recruiters equal access to schools as is given to higher education recruiters.
Jim Rawlins, the UW’s associate director for recruitment and outreach, mentioned that high school counselors are overworked and many students are hesitant to apply for college loans, so military service is an attractive option.
“Sometimes it’s not their decision, it’s their family’s,” he said.
Rawlins mentioned that recruiters such as the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) do want students to go to college.
Some arguments say that schools are financially obligated to provide military access.
School Board member Brita Butler-Wall said $40 million in federal funding is at stake by not granting military recruiters equal access.
Locker believes otherwise. He said that the military would still receive those funds even if military recruitment were only allowed at recruitment fairs.
During the protest, board member Darlene Flynn used a megaphone to yell back into the crowd of protesters, “I want to say this is what democracy looks like. But this is not what a school board meeting looks like.”
Board members left and reconvened later that night in a different room, allowing only the media in.
“It was quite a successful protest,” Hauck said.
YAWR is planning another protest at the next school board meeting July 11 and a nationwide student walkout in the fall.