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From Draft NOtices, October—December 2008

A Setback for Militarism in San Diego Schools


As reported in the July-September Draft NOtices, the San Diego Unified School District announced in May that it was investigating complaints voiced by students who had been involuntarily placed in military science courses (i.e., JROTC), a violation of the California Education Code. There were also complaints about students being recruited into the program with false promises that it would help them meet college entrance requirements. There are 13 secondary schools in the district with JROTC.

After waiting all summer and hearing no report on the investigation, a small group from the Education Not Arms Coalition attended the September 9 San Diego school board meeting and asked for a report on the investigation. School board members refused to comment, but district superintendent Terry Grier said that a report could be obtained from one of the area superintendents, Nellie Meyer.

The next day, Meyer contacted a coalition representative and stated that she interviewed some of the students who had complained and had found their accounts credible. Consequently, a directive was presented to principals at their monthly meeting, advising them to ensure that students were not placed into JROTC without first gaining parental consent. She said the directive would be presented at a second principals’ meeting and that we could request a copy of the directive from the district’s legal office.

Later, after being bounced back and forth several times between the superintendent’s office and the district’s legal office, the coalition was finally emailed the text of the directive issued by Superintendent Grier, which stated (emphasis in the original):

As you know, this past year the Board of Education has been approached by parent [sic] and students questioning the district’s practices when scheduling students into Military Science Courses. We are asking that you take the[se] steps prior to the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year.

1. Make sure that no student is placed in a Military Science class without first obtaining fully informed consent from the student AND a parent or guardian of the student (in accordance with California Education Code sec. 51750).

2. Make sure that before a student enrolls in a Military Science class, they AND their parents or guardian are informed that the course is a nonacademic elective and does not provide credit that counts toward meeting general college or university admission requirements in the state of California.

If we do not have a Military Science registration permission form that outlines these guidelines, I would suggest that a committee of high school principals work with Nellie Meyer to develop such a document and require both students AND parents to sign it prior to registering them for Military Science class.

In addition, SDUSD has been notified by the California State Department of Education that in the future Military Science, band, cheerleading, flag, etc. classes can no longer count as substitute credit for a physical education graduation requirement.

This directive essentially does administratively what the coalition was asking the school board to do in a policy statement. It doesn’t carry the same weight as a board policy, but it does address the complaints made about JROTC enrollment practices.

It also addresses the additional issue of making P.E. credit a privilege for JROTC cadets, which the coalition was planning to raise in the near future. In the past, many students have joined JROTC because they could get this credit, but new California guidelines for physical education rule it out.

Implementation of this directive will have to be monitored, but if students will no longer be given P.E. credit for JROTC, and if school staff will no longer be placing San Diego students into the program without informed student and parent consent, it is likely that many individual JROTC units will have trouble meeting their required minimum enrollment of 100 students. The end result could be that many, if not most, JROTC units will disband, and a significant step will be taken toward demilitarizing San Diego schools.

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This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (


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