Youth Against War and Racism, based in cities across the north and northwestern areas of the country, is fighting the good fight against military recruiters in schools.
Last Wednesday students visited the Seattle School Board meeting again to demand that military recruiters be banned from schools. Like other districts across the country, the school board argues it will lose federal funding under No Child Left Behind if recruiters are denied equal access to students, but YAWR won’t take no for an answer. A board member claims it’s not worth banning military recruiters because under NCLB college recruiters would be banned as well – I wonder how students would react to that claim. How often to college recruiters, who don’t have military recruiters’ $2 billion budget to support them, visit their schools? Do they really help students get into college? And what is the district doing to resist NCLB, if it’s sympathetic to the students’ demands?
For the third time in three months, a rowdy group of students and community members opposed to military recruiting in high schools disrupted a Seattle School Board meeting Wednesday — and promised to keep going back until they believe they have been heard.
At Wednesday’s meeting, they expressed frustration that the board is considering policy changes that would limit — but not ban — military recruiting in Seattle’s public high schools.
The group hopes to persuade board members to adopt a stricter policy and has held rallies and attended district meetings over the past few months in an effort to press the case.
“The School Board needs to take a stand against allowing these aggressive recruiters into our schools,” said Ramy Khalil, one of several who spoke during the public-testimony portion of the meeting.
Speakers’ comments were punctuated with whoops and chants of “Books not bombs!” and “This is what democracy looks like!”
Their activity earned several rebukes from School Board President Cheryl Chow, who warned the unruly audience members that they would be kicked out of the meeting if they didn’t show some respect.
Under the recruiting proposal, colleges, employers and branches of the military would each be allowed two visits per school, per year. The district would compile an annual report on the number of students who opted out of providing information to the military and maintain a Web site that would offer information on school recruitment policies and opt-out forms.
Board member Brita Butler-Wall, who heads the committee recommending the recruiting changes, said she is sympathetic to the students’ stance but worries that it would be needlessly restrictive.
She said she does not believe that “it’s in the best interest of our students to ban all college recruiters from high schools, which would be required if we chose to ban all military recruiters.”…
YAWR’s militancy prompted the Seattle Times to editorialize against them. Note how the Times complains of “activists” and protesters” disrupting school board meetings, hiding the fact that YAWR is a student-led group and it is the students of the district who are making these demands. It’s a powerful thing when students organize for control over the institutions that are supposed to serve them, and the Times doesn’t want to acknowledge that to its readers.
Minnesota YAWR has made a call for a nationwide student walkout, in both high schools and colleges, to protest the war in Iraq and recruiters in schools. The tentative date is set for November 16.
…Various student groups have called national walkouts before, but often these have been called on short notice with little time to prepare a serious mobilization, and with only a few dozen colleges and high schools involved. As a result, the national reach and political impact of past walkouts have been limited. That’s why we want to help jump-start serious dialogue and planning this summer about how we can unite our whole movement behind a well prepared, nationally coordinated, powerful action next fall…