Army, Navy, and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps officials are advising their instructors at high schools and colleges to “use good sense and prudence,” in the words of one spokesman, to avoid any campus confrontations over the war with Iraq.
All three forces are urging intructors to gauge the mood of the school and community and take steps to head off any harassment of ROTC or Junior ROTC students by classmates opposed to the war.
The Navy and the Air Force have suggested that, if warranted, students in the programs can wear civilian clothes on days normally specified for wearing military uniforms.
In Detroit, Army Lieut. Col. Rufus Saxon, director of military science for the city’s public schools, said last week that he has asked the district’s more than 4,000 Junior ROTC cadets to discontinue wearing their uniforms for at least a month.3
No students have been harassed or engaged in disputes over the war at their schools, he said, but the cadets often are asked to wear their uniforms while performing public service, and that could create problems. Navy Lieut. James Shelton, whose 115 Junior ROTC cadets at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Md., have worn civilian clothes on their uniform day for the past four weeks, said: “What I’m trying to do is protect the little kid who is unable to handle any kind of problem that comes up. I think the senior cadets understand that not everyone in the world agrees with them.”
Lieutenant Shelton said some of his cadets had been verbally harassed by classmates.
But if the Junior ROTC operations in such cities as Chicago, Dallas, Miami, San Francisco, and St. Louis are any indication, most school districts around the country with such programs are conducting business as usual, with no disruptions to classroom training, leadership instruction, or drill duty as a result of the war.
Officials in those cities said last week that they had not yet received official guidance from national ROTC officials. But they stressed it was already common practice to take steps to help their cadets, some of whom are as young as 14, avoid any harassment or confrontation.
More than 200,000 high-school students across the country in about 1,000 schools participate in Junior ROTC
Such cadets are not subject to call- up by the military, because their participation does not entail an en listment, as does Senior ROTC, un der which college students are obli gated to military service in return for college tuition and a stipend.
But junior cadets are trained in leadership, civics, and military sci ence the way military enlistees are trained-
And many cadets are watching the Persian Gulf war especially closely.
“They know some graduates of this institution are over there, so they’re concerned. And they’re con cerned about their own future, which is normal,” said Richard Stumpe, principal at Cleveland Na val Junior ROTC Academy in St. Louis, the nation’s only public mag net school entirely made up of Ju nior ROTC cadets.3
“As far as turning into a bunch of wimps and sucking their thumbs and worrying about the future,” he said, “they haven’t done that.’
A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 1991 edition of Education Week as Instructors Urged To Take Steps To Avoid Harassment of Junior R.O.T.C. Students