With only one issue of the student newspaper left in the school
year, the Orange Glen High School administration apparently decided
it could not defend an earlier decision to reject a counter-recruitment
ad submitted by COMD (see May-June 2000 issue of Draft NOtices).
The ad, sponsored by Orange Glen alumni Gary Ghirardi and Michael
Boone, was submitted to the school newspaper staff in February.
It was similar in theme to dozens of other ads COMD had placed
in high school papers over the last 18 years. In the center was
a photo of an injured soldier being helped on a battlefield, and
above it was the headline: "College on the G.I. Plan." The rest
of the text said: "Before you enlist, contact us to find out what
military ads and recruiters might not be telling you. We can also
give you information about educational and job training alternatives."
Rather than allow the students to decide whether to accept this
ad, the journalism advisor and school administration intervened
and sent COMD a rejection letter. Attached was a copy of a school
district policy that prohibits schools from distributing "materials"
that promote any particular commercial, religious or political
interest. Another part of the policy prohibits "advertisements
which are inconsistent with school objectives or do not reasonably
relate to the educational purpose of school-sponsored publications."
COMD's attorney, Dick Eiden, resubmitted the ad to the school
with a letter disputing the relevancy of the policy. He noted
that the first part of it did not apply to newspapers and pointed
out that ads had been carried in the paper in recent years that
promoted commercial, religious and political interests (i.e.,
ads for businesses and an anti-abortion counseling group and at
least one Army recruiting ad), plus there had been several articles
promoting JROTC and one hyping Army enlistment. Eiden also stated,
"The COMD ads are completely consistent with legitimate educational
objectives. COMD is enhancing your students' knowledge and, thus,
assisting you in your objectives." Other school district policies
were cited by Eiden that conflicted with the action taken against
COMD's ad (e.g., a policy prohibiting school officials from exercising
prior restraint against student journalists). And finally, Eiden
COMD successfully challenged in court a similar ad ban by
the Grossmont Union High School District in the 1980s. In that
case, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that once
a forum has been created by a school on the controversial topic
of military service, it cannot provide access for only one side
to present its views on the issue, regardless of whether it
is a "limited public" or "non-public" forum. In issues of The
Musket since 1995, there are various instances where the
newspaper has been used to promote military enlistment . . .
In the context of the Ninth Circuit ruling, intervention by
school personnel to prohibit COMD's ads at this point would
constitute viewpoint-based discrimination.
COMD never received a formal response to Eiden's letter, but
on June 7, we received a copy of the last student newspaper of
the school year. On the back page was our ad. There was also an
ironic form letter that said, "It was a pleasure doing business
with you. We look forward to serving your advertising needs in