After a 90-year run in San Francisco’s high schools, the popular Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps has been cut from the city’s schools.
The school board axed the program this month because of objections that include the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals and concern that the program uses public schools as a recruiting ground.
The seven-member panel voted 4-2, with one member absent, on Nov. 14 to end the program after the 2007-08 school year, despite emotional pleas from dozens of students and protests that drew hundreds of the city’s JROTC cadets.
Some 1,600 students are enrolled in JROTC in seven San Francisco public high schools. Run by and partially financed through the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, the program is taught as an elective course at more than 3,000 high schools nationwide.
“It’s fundamentally and basically a recruiting arm of the military, and I don’t think that is an appropriate thing to be happening in our high schools,” said Dan Kelly, a school board member since 1991 who has previously attempted to end the program.
Mr. Kelly, a self-described pacifist who served two years in prison for resisting the draft during the Vietnam War, said the board’s decision respects the will of San Francisco voters, who last year approved Proposition I, a symbolic measure that said residents oppose military recruiters in public schools.
He cited the roughly $1 million annual cost for the program as another reason to scrap it.
One San Francisco JROTC instructor called the school board’s notion that the program actively recruits or pressures students to join the military “ridiculous.”
“Nobody pushes these kids to enlist,” said Steve Hardee, a retired Army sergeant first class and JROTC instructor at Galileo High School. “And, in fact, probably only about one percent of our kids do end up in the military.”
Mr. Hardee described a “Wall of Fame” in his classroom that shows that most JROTC participants from Galileo “end up in college or in a civilian job.”
The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is not a part of JROTC program, he noted.
“We have openly gay students in this program,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is all about ideology, not about what’s right for these kids.”
A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2006 edition of Education Week