The JROTC horror show

The Board of Education has to look beyond the TV sound bites that grossly distort the facts

OPINION I wish that the adults who want to keep the JROTC program in San Francisco public schools would stop throwing the JROTC students under the bus and blaming the bus driver.

In particular, I'm referring to the March 24 Board of Education meeting, where a resolution about JROTC by commissioners Jill Wynns and Rachel Norton was presented as a first-reading agenda item, which, under our rules, denotes that it should be referred to committee for further discussion. There usually isn't any public commentary on first-reading items because that can occur at the committee meeting, then at the full board meeting when the item is returned for its second reading.

This is the first time that any discussion of JROTC has been on the agenda this year. But adults and kids in support of the program have been turning out to board meetings regularly. And while I've been president, the board has offered deference to the JROTC students, moving public comment earlier in the meeting nearly every time the students have shown up.

Before the March 24 meeting, supporters and opponents of the program were warned that it was only a first reading, that public comment would not be taken out of order, and that each side would have five minutes to make its case. Every elected official who planned on attending was informed of those rules. The ridiculousness that ensued as the board's business and meeting carried on late into the evening came from, and was promoted by, selfish adults interested only in media attention and not concerned about whether this program can be sustained, in its current format, in San Francisco's public schools.

The yelling and grandstanding by the adults for nearly three of the students' allotted five minutes was an embarrassment to everyone. And those adults who stepped in front of the children — uninvited — then had the nerve to blame the Board of Education for not bending to their will.

The issues with this program are real — the teacher credentialing, the cost of the program to the district, the accessibility for all students desiring to become potential first responders for their neighborhoods and school sites in case of a municipal emergency, and, of course, the military aspect. The Board of Education, I believe, has to look beyond the glitz of a program that have been with us for eons and beyond the TV sound bites that grossly distort the facts. I've been moved to the middle on this issue because of the inflammatory behavior from people associated with both ends — the extreme ends.

I am hopeful that many of you will join me in looking carefully at the alternatives at hand, alternatives that would allow all students to participate. Come to the committee meetings, be informed, ask your questions, and be open to hearing something new.

But put aside the angry accusations and condemnations toward those who want to do the right thing for our children just because they don't jump when you say they should. *

Kim-Shree Maufas is president of the San Francisco Board of Education.