JROTC must go now

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OPINION In November 2006, San Francisco made history when the school board made this the first big city in the nation to ban JROTC [Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps]. The board's resolution, which called for phasing out JROTC from high schools this June, stated that "JROTC is a program wholly created and administrated by the United States Department of Defense, whose documents and memoranda clearly identify JROTC as an important recruiting arm."

A poison pill was added to the resolution at the last minute: it called for a task force to be set up to find an "alternative" program to JROTC. The school district administration, in a particularly despicable move, set up the task force with more than 10 members supporting JROTC, and only one member opposed.

Surprise! After sitting for almost a year, the task force failed to come up with an alternative, so the school board rolled over and, except for two courageous members — Mark Sanchez and Eric Mar — voted last December to extend JROTC for another year.

In 2005, San Franciscans passed Proposition I by almost 60 percent, declaring it "city policy to oppose military recruiting in public schools." That same year, by the Army's own report, 42 percent of JROTC graduates across the nation signed up for the military. As this country enters its sixth year of the illegal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, it's time for the school board to go back to its original decision to kick the military out of our schools.

The school board must end JROTC — now. JROTC is currently scheduled to be "phased out," but not until June 2009. By then both Sanchez and Mar will be off the school board, and there will be little to prevent the military from orchestrating a vote to extend JROTC indefinitely. If, on the other hand, the school board votes to end JROTC this June as their original resolution required, JROTC would be gone.

Two progressives on the board must be convinced to send the military packing: Kim-Shree Maufas and Green Party member Jane Kim.

Both received endorsements from progressives. To convince them that they risk such endorsements in the future, the JROTC Must Go! Coalition is circuutf8g the following statement: "We will look very closely at the next school board vote on JROTC and will consider the votes carefully when making any endorsements for future candidates."

Within a week, the Tenants Union, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, and the San Francisco Bay View newspaper signed the statement. If Maufas and Kim join Sanchez and Mar, we'll make history again.

Riva Enteen is the former program director for the National Lawyers Guild and the mother of two San Francisco school district graduates. Tommi Avicolli Mecca is a southern Italian queer atheist writer and activist. For more information contact the JROTC Must Go! Coalition: (415) 575-5543 or JROTCmustgo@gmail.com.