However, according to Brandais, the district’s media representative, the school district has not received any formal complaints concerning students in the program who do not want to be there. “We require all of our students to return a consent form for the class,” he says. “Our assistant superintendent has never received an appeal call from a parent about their child in Junior ROTC. Now, if the parent wants their child to be in the program, but the student doesn’t want to be there, then that’s a matter the student must resolve with the parent.”
Jorge Mariscal, professor of literature at UCSD and a Vietnam War veteran, feels that it is a common occurrence for students who have not chosen the elective to be placed in the class. “The most troubling development in some Los Angeles and San Diego schools is the placement of students in JROTC programs without student or parent consent,” he says. “This is an infringement on students’ rights, and any school official that condones this practice should be reprimanded.”
The coalition’s final objection to the military science program stems from allegations that JROTC instructors are recruiting cadets by stating that the course meets college eligibility requirements. Jahnkow, of Project YANO, says, “Even those who choose to go into the program are often doing it based on misinformation given to them to hype the program and make them believe that it provides benefits it really doesn’t. Specifically, students have been told this will help them qualify for college, when, in fact, the credits that students get for this elective aren’t even counted by colleges, and the grades aren’t even counted for eligibility for financial aid.”
Brandais disagrees. “It does help them on the college applications, for a couple of reasons,” he says. “One is the shooting program is an NCAA sport, so there are scholarships available for that, and if they decide to go into the military science field and enter the college ROTC program, it helps to get in. The final one is that it qualifies as a leadership skill, and that is one of the things they judge you on on college applications.”
Captain Gladimiro Vasquez, professor of military science and a recruiting officer for San Diego State’s ROTC program, acknowledges that the high school program does not meet any college eligibility requirements. “It is considered a leadership quality, though,” he says, “and that’s equivalent…kind of like ASB president or something like that. They ask for extracurricular activities, and JROTC would be something you put down for that.”
In recent months, there have been accusations of intimidation by school administrators. Mission Bay High students said that in April during a school walkout protesting the program, school faculty followed them with a video recorder. Students also reported that a school administrator confiscated an anti-JROTC button a student was wearing and never returned it.
More serious allegations surfaced from Mission Bay High students claiming that during an open house on February 20, principal Cheryl Seelos prevented them from passing out leaflets. The action prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to send a formal letter of complaint nine days later to the principal and to the district’s general counsel requesting no further infringement on the students’ right to free speech.
In late April, matters got even worse for Seelos, according to a May 2 Voice of San Diego story, when she released a student protester’s confidential medical records to the publication in an attempt to defend the school’s program. Assistant superintendent Nellie Meyer told the Voice that the action led to an unspecified disciplinary action by the school board. According to Brandais, the situation has also resulted in a districtwide ban on JROTC instructors and school administrators from commenting on the program.
Brandais says the gag order will remain until completion of the school district’s independent investigation on the policies of the military science program as well as the actions taken by school administrators in response to the mounting opposition. “We’re hoping to have the review completed by the end of the school year,” he says. “If it goes beyond the end of the school year, we have telephone numbers to contact parents and students. If parents want to contact the staff, they can call the office of Nellie Meyer, assistant superintendent for high schools.”