Student action wins concessions
This summer, the Seattle School Board unanimously passed a new policy that placed some important restrictions on military recruiters in our schools. This was the result of a major grassroots campaign organized by Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) and a coalition of antiwar activists, following a walkout of over 800 students in April against the Iraq War and military recruitment in our schools.
YAWR is calling for military recruiters to be banned from Seattle public schools. But to stay within the legal parameters of the No Child Left Behind act, we proposed that all recruiting be done at a district-wide recruitment fair once per semester.
However, the school board rejected our proposal, instead passing a more limited policy that doesn’t ban recruiters from schools and still has many loopholes that military recruiters are likely to exploit.
These restrictions on military recruiters, although a step in the right direction, were an attempt to placate the antiwar movement. But we flooded the public testimony of multiple school board meetings with impassioned speeches letting the school board know we see through their facade and we’re not going away.
The policy passed by the school board restricts recruiters to coming to campuses twice per year. However, the policy treats the five branches of the military as separate organizations, so in reality the military will be allowed to visit a school 10 times per year.
This will lessen the number of military recruiters coming to some schools, but in other schools it will actually allow more than before. Colleges don’t have the resources to compete with military recruitment budgets. This will leave large inequities in the number of college versus military recruiters on our campuses.
Our recruitment fair policy would move all recruiters off our campuses and into twice-yearly district-wide recruitment fairs. This would put the military, job, and college recruiters in the same place at the same time. Since it would be district-wide, it would help end the targeting of poor students and students of color by the military.
The recruitment fair policy is the most effective policy in restricting military recruiters, if the school board insists on complying with the unjust No Child Left Behind act (which we have argued should be openly defied).
Our protests succeeded in shining a spotlight on the issue of military recruitment in our schools, breaking into the capitalist mass media in numerous reports that have reached tens of thousands of workers and youth, raising awareness of the issue.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (PI) gave surprisingly favorable coverage for the corporate media. Their headline read "School Board limits military recruiting in high schools – But protesters say new policy doesn’t go far enough." This in itself is quite favorable, since it gets our point across without even having to read the article. Further, a PI writer wrote an editorial in support of our policy. The PI’s coverage is a victory in itself because it doesn’t let the school board off the hook in their attempts to make it look like they’ve dealt with the issue.
The only reason they passed further restrictions on recruiters is because of the pressure we put on the school board. If we hadn’t been constantly pressuring them, including an occupation of a school board meeting in June, they could have let this issue fall back into the shadows after our walkout of 800 students in April.
We now need to focus on building a massive national student walkout against the war and military recruitment in our schools on November 16.
We also need to build a strong network of antiwar clubs in our schools that can protest recruiters any time they show up at our schools. Any groups or individuals who want to endorse or help the student walkout or start an antiwar club in your school, please contact us!