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Education Reporter

Firearms and Soldiers Receive A Rocky Reception in Schools
Photo that was not allowed to be posted in Salem, Oregon school
Photo that was not allowed to be posted in Salem, Oregon school
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Schools and college campuses can be hostile terrain for firearms and military values.

A variety of restrictions on pictures of guns and military recruiters' access to campuses make life more difficult for aspiring soldiers.

A Salem, OR high school student was told in March that she could not post a photograph in the classroom showing her tough-looking Marine brother holding a rifle with two buddies. She brought the picture to school for an assignment showing the school's graduates at work. The principal vetoed the picture because two of the soldiers are seen holding weapons. The family was told that only digital removal of the rifles would make the photo acceptable, a solution that the Marine brother found unacceptable.

After an uproar ensued, district officials approved an alternative photo of the brother holding a less-visible weapon and focusing on a young Iraqi boy wearing a Marine T-shirt.

"I want educators to be truthful," said the mother of the soldier and the student, Connie Riecke. "This is a career choice, and children need to know that this is an important but dangerous job." (Statesman Journal, 3-25-05)

Also in Salem, student marksmen may not have a pistol embroidered on their letterman jackets, and teenage hunters are not permitted to wear T-shirt images of themselves standing with rifles and bagged quarry. Officials cite the district's zero-tolerance for weapons policy, although the policy does not mention pictures of weapons.

Mascot violates policy? 
When a reporter asked about the school mascot, a Royal Scot carrying a sword, principal Cynthia Richardson replied, "So true. We might have to revisit that." (katu.com, 3-30-05)

In Indiana, a federal court ruled in March that a high school student's free speech rights were violated when school officials suspended him for wearing a T-shirt showing an M-16 rifle and the text of the Marine Corps creed. Nelson Griggs of Fort Wayne was suspended in 2003 for violating the dress code, which prohibits clothing depicting "symbols of violence."

"Griggs' shirt has no relation to the (school) board's legitimate concerns about school violence, nor is it likely to disrupt the educational process," the judge wrote in a 30-page ruling.

Avid trap shooter Blake Douglass of Londonderry, NH was barred last fall from using a photo of himself with his shotgun in his high school yearbook. The school board unanimously voted to support the school officials' position that the editors' rejection of the photo was proper in light of the school's zero-tolerance policy toward firearms. A federal district court in March found that the student's First Amendment rights were not violated by the decision because it was made by the student editors and there was no state action.

Marine uniforms flap 
A suburban Chicago high school initially barred two teenagers from showing off their Marine Corps dress uniforms at their May graduation ceremony. The two students completed high school early, in December, in order to join the Marines and attend boot camp.

Nearly 350 students and teachers at Warren Township High School signed a petition requesting that the two be allowed to wear the uniforms instead of caps and gowns. The school board then voted 6-0, with one abstention, to permit the uniforms.

Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke told the Daily Herald she had never heard of a similar situation. "Not many people have been through Marine Corps boot camp," she noted. "It's a very lofty achievement." (4-13-05)

Hurdles for recruiters  
Military recruiters face obstacles at some high schools and colleges, despite federal laws in their favor. The No Child Left Behind Act requires school districts to give military recruiters the same access to high schools as is given to college or job recruiters, and schools are required to turn over students' names, addresses and phone numbers to recruiters unless parents write the school that they don't want their child contacted by the military.

The California Department of Education had to threaten a cutoff of federal money to districts in San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Santa Monica if they didn't comply with the federal law. (sfgate.com, 3-2-05)

The Shorewood High School student newspaper in Wisconsin rejected $3,000 in military advertising based on a newly written "advertising policy" rejecting ads from organizations "deemed destructive to the social, economic and environmental health of the earth and all of its inhabitants." The student editor, the son of two English professors, said he refused to advance the cause of "warmongers" and branded the military as "both classist and racist." (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 6-23-04)

Solomon Amendment attacked 
In 1994 Congress passed the Solomon Amendment to require universities that receive federal funds to give equal access to military recruiters, and to deny defense-related funding to universities that don't allow ROTC programs. Many law schools have resisted giving access to military recruiters because of their faculty's objections to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring openly gay people from serving in the armed forces.

Faced with a loss of federal funding, some 31 law schools sued the Pentagon, arguing that the Solomon Amendment is unconstitutional based on First Amendment rights of free speech. The plaintiffs won a surprising 2-1 preliminary victory in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last November.

In February, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution expressing support for the law, and in May the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear the dispute in its next term.

Judge hits back at Yale 
An Alabama federal judge is retaliating in his own way against Yale Law School, his alma mater, which blocks military recruiters from campus. Senior District Judge William Acker Jr. wrote Yale in February that he won't accept Yalies for clerkships because of the university policy.

Military recruiters who are not barred from campus by university policy may even face literal hostilities. "A mob of Seattle Central Community College students chased military recruiters off campus" on presidential inauguration day in January "after a tense confrontation" that included "hurled insults and water bottles," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported (2-4-05).

A shocked recruiter said he was hit in the head with newspapers and was surrounded by "a mob of 500 people," some of whom tore up Army literature. The two recruiters had to leave under escort by campus security officers. Administrators backed off any disciplinary action against the students.

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