By Ernie McCray
A while back the San Diego City School Board of Education committed the school system to acknowledging Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.s contributions to society through appropriate activities commemorating the civil rights movement in the United States.
But, alas, all the ‘whereases’ and ‘herebys’ and ‘therefores’ didn’t mean a thing. Just soulless blah-blah-blah. I mean I was there at the meeting with a number of other people (members of the Education Not Arms Coalition) to ask the board to put the issue of JROTC rifle ranges at Lincoln and Mission Bay High on their agenda. And since Dr. King was the peace seeker of our times we consider an open discussion regarding the militarization of our children in our schools to be about as appropriate as an activity could be as far as memorializing what this man contributed to humanity.
The board listened to our pleas with the enthusiasm of someone being served rancid oatmeal for breakfast. So we went to them another time, bearing No Weapons Training picket signs, and drew enough attention to ourselves to make the 6 o’clock and 11 o’clock news. But our concerns haven’t come anywhere near the paper upon which the board writes their agenda.
How can this be? How can you honor a man who spoke so eloquently against war and not, in his name, in his spirit, at least discuss whether or not our children should fire weapons on their campuses under the auspices of the military? Seems to me like something is wrong with the districts Zero Tolerance Policy.
Oh, my beloved Martin must be turning in his grave. He sought a magnificent revolution and all City Schools can come up with in his name is an empty resolution?
And Mission Bay High appears to be so buoyed by the board of educations support of their JROTC program that they’ve decided to ignore Dr.Kings valiant pursuits of liberty and justice for all. From what I hear they’re snatching the civil and human rights of their students like pickpockets in a New York subway.
I understand the other day at the campus a few Latino students (contradicting the notion that students of color aren’t engaged in their schools), in protest of the military weapons training on their campus, peacefully handed out fliers regarding their concerns at their Spring Open House. That was brought to an abrupt halt. I heard that earlier that week a student was stopped from leafletting and had his student ID and leaflets confiscated. And I can only ask: Has the school administration not brushed up on the districts policy on student free speech?
These people completely blew a golden opportunity to take advantage of one of those wonderful teachable moments that occasionally land in educators laps. Instead of complimenting their students for acting as citizens of a democracy should act, they asked them to leave the grounds and then wrongly informed them that they can only leaflet during school hours. Whew, I don’t see the so-called achievement gap narrowing any in this atmosphere.
Why should a student be hassled for asking why his or her peers are being taught to shoot weapons in their school? What’s wrong with questioning why students are being placed in JROTC without informed consent from their parents or why they are being tracked into the military instead of into classes that might enable them to enroll in college?
One of the fliers under the heading What Would Dr. King Say Today... shared how outspoken this great American leader was in opposition to war and militarism. So how can the board of education condone students having their lists of quotes from Dr. King seized on one hand and claim to be celebrating him on the other?
The bigger question is: how can the board of education not applaud and recognize these students for following Dr. Kings example of taking action against societys evils by at least placing their concerns about rifle training at their school on their agenda?
At any rate looks like the ACLU has some work to do in San Diego City Schools.
Ernie McCray is a San Diego resident and a retired City Schools principal.