School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor

New Organization Questions Military Presence in U.S. Schools

October 21, 2014 1 min read
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To the Editor:

Amidst alarm over the militarization of school police officers, it is worth remembering that it’s likely only 20-plus school districts have participated in the Pentagon’s giveaway program. Moreover, in most cases the military weaponry will remain safely out of sight unless there is a true emergency. So, why the outrage? Scenes from the suburbs of St. Louis shocked the nation this summer, and no one wants school police to resemble Ferguson’s warrior cops.

Militarized school police officers are also disturbingly out of sync with our long-held tradition of civilian control of education.

Recall that John Dewey was a vociferous opponent of military involvement in schools. Armor-plated tanks rolling through a high school campus? This peculiar sight, we’d like to believe, is more fitting in North Korea than in the United States. Except that it’s not. In fact, since 2001, military gear and personnel have become a common sight on many K-12 campuses. Thanks to a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act, schools must open their doors to military recruiters; some schools take this a step further, giving recruiters carte blanche access to cafeterias, classrooms, and athletic fields. At more than 3,000 high schools, retired military officers teach marksmanship, physical fitness, leadership, communications, geography, and civics through Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC).

Last month, in a move that would have made Mr. Dewey proud, a coalition of more than 50 K-12 leaders, academics, and non-governmental organizations launched A National Call: Save Civilian Education to push back against further incursions from the military. We hope their voices will help stimulate a much-needed debate about U.S. school militarization.

Seth Kershner Scott Harding

Reference Librarian

Northwestern Connecticut Community College

Winsted, Conn.

Scott Harding

Associate Professor of Community Organization

University of Connecticut

West Hartford, Conn.

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A version of this article appeared in the October 22, 2014 edition of Education Week as New Organization Questions Military Presence in U.S. Schools


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