I don’t want people to think – just because I’m a bit skeptical of the level of fervor around the Maine reports – that I don’t believe that teachers can be strongly antiwar and antimilitary and then act inappropriately on their feelings. Here’s an article from last week’s Daily Breeze:
A week after an ROTC student was removed from a Carson High School classroom for wearing military fatigues, school officials Friday said they would permit cadets to don the camouflage uniforms in the future but with some restrictions.
It remained unclear, however, what those restrictions would be, as administrators struggled to draw new policies that balanced the concerns of teachers with the requests of ROTC members.
The problem arose Feb. 28 when some cadets put on the outfit — which has splotches of green and brown and is known as “Marine utility” dress — instead of the more formal uniform that the ROTC typically wears once a week during the program’s “inspection” days.
It was the first time Carson’s ROTC had a chance to dress in the popular fatigues, and a teacher reacted by asking a student in the new uniform to leave the classroom and finish the day’s lesson in another room. Tricia Churchill, the history teacher who dismissed the student, declined to comment.
Carson Principal Doug Waybright said the teacher found the apparel “inappropriate,” but did not elaborate. He told the teacher that “we as public educators do not have the right to advocate a position,” though he would not say whether disciplinary action was taken.
Lt. Col. Ted McDonald, coordinator for the Los Angeles Unified School District’s ROTC program, said he advises ROTC instructors against allowing students to wear the uniforms on campus, except for major events, to avoid the kind of problem Carson experienced.
“Some teachers object to what appears to them as a war uniform,” McDonald said. “But we don’t need to cause controversy and we’ve elected not to use that uniform except for camping and hiking.” That policy, McDonald added, has exceptions and was in place when he took over the district’s ROTC program in 1990.
Cheryl Geurbaoui, a Carson teacher, disapproved of students wearing the uniform, especially at a time when the country is on the precipice of war.
“They encourage people to think about war when they should be learning and it just bothers me because this is a tense time,” said Geurbaoui, who believes that dislike of the outfits is widespread among schools, not isolated to Carson. “I don’t think it’s unpatriotic to not want kids in the uniforms on campus.” But many students voiced strong support for the uniform and felt the teacher was out of line.
“The uniform doesn’t symbolize war. To me it’s about being proud of your country,” said Brandyn Robinson, a Carson senior. “They let athletes and cheerleaders wear their uniforms but when it comes to ROTC they don’t. It doesn’t make sense.”
Meliza Marshall, a sophomore enrolled in ROTC, said she felt dejected about by what she viewed as “discrimination” against the cadets.
“We worked hard for those uniforms and we want to wear them and we’re proud to wear them,” she said.
ROTC students at other schools were similarly upset. Cadet Sgt. Maj. Mike Heitmann, a senior at Redondo Union High School who leads his ROTC unit, said he interpreted the action as an insult to the military in general.
“I think it’s ridiculous because the military is here to protect its people; we’re not warmongers,” he said.
I hear the voices of future leaders here.
And while it’s amusingly predictable that a few teachers would stand in front of their students and object, I’ll also tip my hat to the school administration for stepping up and dealing with this unprompted.
I have a feeling that had the Maine administrators acted in the same way, we wouldn’t have been debating the issue.