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Activists want
S.F. to oppose military recruitment in schools

Activists want
S.F. to oppose military recruitment in schools


Ballot measure would put the city on record as opposing the presence of recruiters in public schools.

Hoping to build on the American public's growing frustration with the war in Iraq, antiwar activists in San Francisco have submitted a local ballot measure that would put the city on record as opposing the presence of military recruiters in public high schools and colleges. If it qualifies for the November ballot and is approved by voters, the initiative would not ban the armed forces from seeking new recruits at San Francisco campuses, an action that puts schools at risk of losing federal funding. Instead, the nonbinding College, Not Combat resolution merely would encourage city officials and university administrators to exclude recruiters even if it means forsaking government dollars and to create scholarships and training programs that would reduce the military's appeal to young adults. The initiative is part of a larger "counter-recruitment" battle being fought over the Pentagon's recruitment efforts and exclusion of openly gay recruits being waged around the country. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in June to hear the Bush administration's appeal of a lower court ruling that said law schools could not be stripped of their federal funding for refusing to treat military employers the same as other employers. Antiwar activists also have targeted a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act that requires school districts to provide military recruiters access both to student career centers and the same student contact information available to college or job recruiters. For a decade the San Francisco Unified School District barred military recruiters from its high schools, a stance it was forced to abandon after Congress approved the No Child Left Behind law in 2001. The district has focused instead on alerting parents that they can request in writing not to have their child's name or address released to any recruiters. Three members of the San Francisco board of supervisors who attended a rally kicking off the campaign said they would wait to see if it passes before sponsoring any legislation to enact its recommendations. "It all depends on the political will of the [elected officials] and the electorate. We would like it to have teeth, of course," Supervisor Tom Ammiano said. Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, rejected the notion that poor and working-class Americans are targeted by military recruiters and make up a disproportionate share of the war's casualties. "Like other large, major corporations, we want the best and the brightest that our country's schools have to offer. That's who we are recruiting," Krenke said. "That's why we want equal access to student directory information and college and high school campuses--so that we can let these students know what we have to offer in terms of benefits and education." Organizers of the initiative, which must be certified by the Department of Elections within 30 days, said that while the measure's impact may end up being only symbolic, they expect their campaign will muster the dissent that has surfaced at scattered campuses around the country into an effective antiwar movement. Among those standing outside San Francisco City Hall as campaign organizers prepared to submit 15,000 signatures--4,600 more than need to be certified--they had gathered to put the measure before voters was Cindy Sheehan, a Berkeley resident whose 24-year-old son, Casey, died on April 4, 2004, five days after he arrived with his Army unit in Iraq. Wiping away tears Sheehan said the recruiter who persuaded her son to join the Army four years earlier promised Casey he would never see combat and reneged on most of the signing bonus he was guaranteed. "I believe if that recruiter had not taken advantage of my trusting and trustworthy son, he would be alive today," Sheehan said. "The kids need to know the truth." (AP)

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