The Guns of Junior ROTC Are Silenced in San Diego

by on February 11, 2009 · 10 comments

in Civil Rights, Education, Labor, Organizing, San Diego

by Rick Jahnkow / Project YANO / February 11, 2009

On February 10, 2009 San Diego Unified, located in the middle of one of the largest military complexes in the world, took the uncharacteristic step of banning rifle training conducted under the military’s high school JROTC program. Eleven schools with rifle ranges were affected in the nation’s eighth largest urban district.

Before the board meeting began, speakers representing local high schools and colleges addressed an outside crowd of 200 students, parents, teachers and community supporters. Some high schools sent so many students that two charter buses, courtesy of the AFSC, were used for transportation. Anticipating a long evening before the school board would discuss the rifle training issue, the Association of Raza Educators provided tamales to help sustain the crowd.

It wasn’t until four hours into the board meeting, at 9:00 PM, that the agenda item came up for discussion. The vote was preceded by testimony from about 15 pro- and con- speakers in front of a crowd that was largely in favor of terminating the weapons training program. One school board member said that in all of his many years on the board, this was the most impressive student effort he had ever seen. Even two board members who opposed the resolution expressed their admiration for the students’ involvement. When the decision was made, the resolution, which immediately banned all marksmanship training in the district, passed by a vote of 3-2. The crowd then spilled out of the auditorium to hold a loud and joyous celebration.

This achievement was made possible by a collaboration of students and various community groups who first came together in 2007 as the Education Not Arms Coalition. One of their main concerns was the way schools were tracking students into military training (via JROTC) while denying them adequate class alternatives, especially ones needed to qualify for college. Students from African American and Latino families were being disproportionately affected.

To address the problem, the coalition adopted three initial goals–convince the school district to:
-stop placing students into military science (JROTC) classes without their informed consent.
-stop telling parents and students that the class will help them qualify for college, when it won’t.
-ban weapons training and JROTC gun ranges in San Diego schools.

All three goals have now been achieved, the first two by a superintendent’s directive, the third by school board action. Throughout the over one-year long campaign, high school students have played a central role in educating and mobilizing their peers, with support from a variety of community and college groups.

Audio of the entire Feb. 10 hearing and school board decision is posted on the SD Unified site: Video should be added soon.
For a video news report, visit: .
Contact: Education Not Arms Coalition,

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar r. hoover February 11, 2009 at 2:34 pm

dagnabbit! you commies are always takin’ our guns away. i say shootin’ outta be mandatory. how else are we gonna protect ourselves when the terrorists start invading?


avatar Abby February 12, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I do worry about the loss of scholarships from this program. Some kids may not be able to go to college now.


avatar Patrick February 12, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Totally and awesomely cool. Now, if we can get that friggin’ Leave My Child Alone law changed about the schools handing off students’ names & information to recruiters, well, that would be a small win. Students who want to join the military can call up the office; they shouldn’t have to “opt out” by filling out a form at the beginning of the school year. And those scholarships, redirect the Dept. of Offense money, billions of dollars, toward bigger & better & more inclusive scholarships. We need more educated people here in Amerika, dagnabbit!


avatar Rick February 13, 2009 at 12:31 pm

In reply to Abbey: No scholarships were lost when the school board voted to terminate weapons training in their high schools. Neither did students lose the ability to join JROTC. It was only the weapons training component of the program that was terminated.

All money for college that is connected to the JROTC program is available only if the student agrees to join the military. JROTC cadets who meet college entrance requirements can apply for ROTC scholarships or an appointment to a military academy, neither of which is guaranteed, but both of which require a commitment to the military. There is nothing altruistic about that.

Also, the reality is that the vast majority of JROTC cadets who enter the military (the DoD says approx. 40%-50% of them eventually do), enter at the enlisted level, not as officers. Students don’t have to do that to get college financial aid. They can get civilian aid that does not require them to risk their lives defending economic interests in illegal wars of aggression.


avatar Frank Gormlie February 13, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Thanks, Rick. I met Rick Jahnkow in 1979 when we were both active in CARD – Committee Against Registration and the Draft – when President Jimmy Carter called for the draft to be reinstated during a period when he was rattling sabers against the Russians. Rick has been active in Project YANO and the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft almost ever since – for years – so many I can’t count. Project YANO also publishes “Draft Notices”. Check them out.


avatar Abby February 16, 2009 at 10:54 am

Rick, thanks for the info, when I heard this story on NPR it seems to be saying otherwise.

I personally have no problem with someone wanting a career in the military, I have a lot of friends who benefited from it. But just not right now.

I feel that if you decided to join, we the people of America owe it to you not to send to to fight or die if the cause isn’t truly just, something which we failed to do with this war.

But let’s not lump all the military in with those war profiteering criminals that Bush had allowed to run the show.


avatar Mary Soderstrom February 25, 2009 at 6:14 am

It’s taken this long to get the guns out? I can’t believe it. That’s why I went to Canada in 1968…

But I also remember the Girls’ Atheletic Association “activity” at PLHS in l959 or early 1960 when we got to use the rifle range deep underneath the high school. I like the smell of the powder and, damn!, if it wasn’t one of the few things the GAA did that I was good at! Had to wait until I discovered petanque (bocce ball) to find another “sport” that fit my peculiar talents.

Much harder to kill someone by throwing a ball that’s four inches in diameter than by shooting one that’s four centimeters, thank goodness.



avatar notacommie March 23, 2009 at 4:15 pm

I’m sorry, but this is absolutely ridiculous. I am in JROTC. I coach one of these rifle teams on so calle military “rifle training.” for one thing, these students are shooting bb guns, not even .22s but bb guns. for another, the shooting styles taught would actually be a detriment to anyone trying to shoot a high powered rifle, because the students are taught olympic style marksmanship shooting, which doesnt account for recoil. lastly, this is an olympic sport. I dont see liberals banning track and field because the military happens to run a lot… this is no different. we arent teaching students to be killers, we are coaching them in an internationally recognized sport. it isnt just JROTC either. there are plently of schools accross the nation that have civilian rifle teams. this is just another case where ignorant people who yell loud enough carry the day.


avatar Rob May 6, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I like how in the pictures of the protesters you can make out 2 MECHA tee-shirts….Last I looked they were considered by the State Dept. to be a group of interest, since they advocate the re-taking of Southern California by force if necessary so it can re-join Mexico.


avatar Brian November 26, 2010 at 11:14 am

I’m not sure really how undermining this issue has really become but, I would have to say that during my time in the, “J.R.O.T.C. in high school,” I had improved my schooling, leadership abilities, and my overall life. I had headed down a dangerous path for my future by gangs,drugs, etc. The J.R.O.T.C. program helped me rebuild myself and my potential. I believe that the wrong impression of these programs have placed bitter idea’s into our society’s heads. These programs are designed not only for the military focus but, to better one’s abilities in many situations that we endure each and every day. So, believing that any J.R.O.T.C. is a weapons training coarse is a cop-out to another misguided understanding of a really good program.


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