Federal

Court Backs Military Recruiting at Colleges

By Andrew Trotter — March 15, 2006 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Congress is within its authority to require colleges to open their job fairs to military recruiters, even if campus nondiscrimination policies clash with federal law restricting gays in the military, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week.

The 8-0 decision upholds the Solomon Amendment, a measure Congress passed in 1994 and expanded several times that calls for withholding federal money from colleges and universities that do not give the U.S. military the same access to students they provide to other potential employers.

The case was being watched closely by groups opposed to military recruiting in high schools, because of a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act that guarantees military recruiters access to schools. Schools could lose their federal Title I aid if they fail to comply.

“A legal challenge to that particular law is probably much less likely now,” said Rick Jahnkow, an organizer for the Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities, based in Encinitas, Calif. His group brings ex-service personnel to high schools in the San Diego area to talk to students about military life and nonmilitary options for preparing for careers, paying for college, and serving their communities.

An association of 38 law schools challenged the Solomon Amendment in 2003, arguing in a lawsuit that it violated their First Amendment rights of free speech and association. The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, or FAIR, argued that admitting military recruiters interfered with their message that employers should not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

But the high court rejected the law schools’ arguments last week.

“In this case, accommodating the military’s message does not affect the law school’s speech, because the schools are not speaking when they host interviews and recruiting receptions,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts wrote in the opinion for the court in Rumsfeld v. FAIR (Case No. 04-1152). Such activities are not “inherently expressive,” he said.

He said the law schools’ situation was unlike examples of compelled speech that the court has ruled unconstitutional, such as a state requirement that schoolchildren recite the Pledge of Allegiance and salute the flag struck down in 1943 in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.

In other cases, the court ruled unconstitutional a New Hampshire law that required its motorists to display the state motto, “Live Free or Die,” on their license plates, and a Massachusetts law that required the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston to admit a gay Irish group whose message the parade’s organizers did not wish to endorse.

The presence of military recruiters and the assistance that colleges may be required to give them, such as sending e-mails or posting notices on bulletin board, are a “far cry” from those examples of compelled speech, Chief Justice Roberts wrote.

Law school students are unlikely to be confused about the schools’ position on federal policies regarding gay service personnel—summarized as “don’t ask, don’t tell”—especially since universities are not restricted from speaking out about those rules, he wrote.

The Supreme Court has “held that high school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits because legally required to do so, pursuant to an equal-access policy,” the chief justice wrote. “Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school.”

Raising a Military

Bruce Hunter, the associate executive director for public policy of the American Association of School Administrators, said his group opposed the No Child Left Behind law’s military-recruiting requirements because it was at odds with local control of schools.

But he added that, as long as Congress spells out clearly the conditions for receiving federal aid, the government is well within its rights to impose them.

Beyond the arguments over free speech and Congress’ spending powers, some legal analysts thought it significant that the ruling also invoked the constitutional power of Congress to raise a military force.

“Military recruiting promotes the substantial government interest in raising and supporting the armed forces—an objective that would be achieved less effectively if the military were forced to recruit on less favorable terms than other employers,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote.

Mr. Jahnkow, of the group opposed to military recruiting in schools, said: “The Supreme Court decision has some really serious implications, partly because the opinion sets out the principle that the federal government has a right to impose recruiters on any school even if there’s no funding involved that could be withdrawn or withheld as a punishment.”

A version of this article appeared in the March 15, 2006 edition of Education Week as Court Backs Military Recruiting at Colleges

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Stronger Together: Integrating Social and Emotional Supports in an Equity-Based MTSS
Decades of research have shown that when schools implement evidence-based social and emotional supports and programming, academic achievement increases. The impact of these supports – particularly for students of color, students from low-income communities, English
Content provided by Illuminate Education
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Why Retaining Education Leaders of Color Is Key for Student Success
Today, in the United States roughly 53 percent of our public school students are young people of color, while approximately 80 percent of the educators who lead their classrooms, schools, and districts are white. Racial

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Citing Educator and Parent Anxieties, Senators Press Biden Officials on Omicron Response
Lawmakers expressed concern about schools' lack of access to masks and coronavirus tests, as well as disruptions to in-person learning.
5 min read
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, testify before a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to examine the federal response to COVID-19 and new emerging variants, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, left, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, testify at a Senate hearing about the federal response to COVID-19.
Greg Nash/Pool via AP
Federal Miguel Cardona Should Help Schools Push Parents to Store Guns Safely, Lawmakers Say
More than 100 members of Congress say a recent shooting at a Michigan high school underscores the need for Education Department action.
3 min read
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the residence of parents of the Oxford High School shooter on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Three Oakland County Sheriff's deputies survey the grounds outside of the Crumbley residence while seeking James and Jennifer Crumbley, parents of Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley, on Dec. 3, 2021, in Oxford, Mich.
Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP
Federal In Reversal, Feds Seek to Revive DeVos-Era Questions About Sexual Misconduct by Educators
The Education Department's decision follows backlash from former education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other conservatives.
4 min read
Illustration of individual carrying binary data on his back to put back into the organized background of 1s and 0s.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal Biden Administration Lays Out Its Top Priorities for Education Grants
The pandemic's impact and a diverse, well-prepared educator workforce are among areas the administration wants to fund at its discretion.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington on Aug. 5, 2021.
U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during a White House briefing.
Susan Walsh/AP