Buffalo BEAST - Buffalo's New Best Fiend

Oct 19 - Nov 2, 2005
Issue #86

  ..Buffalo's Best Fiend
Grand Perjury
A Miller's Tale
Allan Uthman

Are Female Genitals Enough to Qualify for the Supreme Court?
Paul jones

Getty Some
Hot Movement Action
A Monkey
Jurassic Dork
Michael Crichton's Science Fiction
Kit Smith
Harold Who?
Ode to Pinter in 1 Act

Alexander Zaitchik

Theatre of War
Inside the Psy-Ops Studio
Matt Bors

Drown Together
On Katrina & Disaster Fatigue
Jeff Dean
After terror threats, New York begins efforts to clean shit out of pants
Clayton Byrd
An Open Letter to Jessica Alba
Irresponsible Mayoral Speculation:
What do Bflo's candidates have to do to win/lose?

Shop for Porn Like a Pro!
Hyman Bender

The Assassin’s Gate
America in Iraq
by George Packer
Review by John Freeman
The Big Wedding
9/11, the Whistle-Blowers and the Cover-Up
by Sander Hicks
Review by Russ Wellen
Buffalo Soldiers
Hutch Tech's New Program: Forcible Conscription
Allan Uthman
Another Corporate Psycopath
The Barnacle at Delphi
Chuck Richardson

The BEAST Blog
Irresponsible vitriol on a near-daily basis

[sic] - Letters
Wide Right
Bills Football & other sports
Ronnie Roscoe
Kino Korner: Movies
Michael Gildea
Page 3
Separated at Birth?
 Cover Page

Idiot Box
Perry Bible Fellowship
Bob the Angry Flower

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Buffalo Soldiers
Hutch Tech's New Program: Forcible Constcription
Allan Uthman

“State education law says a child can only participate in JROTC if they’re 14 years or older, if they voluntarily want to do it, and only if they have their parents’ permission. It’s quite specific.”

So says John A. Curr III, acting director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s western regional office. But Hutchinson Central Technical Institute Principal David Greco sees it differently. Hutch Tech’s entire freshman class was auto-enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps this year, and may have been for two previous years.

Greco says parents were sent two letters over the summer giving them the chance to opt out of the program. But students who missed the opt-out deadline were out of luck—until some angry parents and the NYCLU piped up.

In an AP story on the controversy from October 6th, Greco cites the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires schools receiving federal aid to make student information available to the military unless parents opt out as precedent: “I took that and said, `Well if it’s good enough for the federal government to say, that’s what my letter should say,’ ” Greco said. Of course, providing student information and enrolling them in JROTC are two entirely different things, and JROTC isn’t even mentioned in NCLB.

“The bottom line here,” says Curr, “is why do we have principals deciding curriculum issues? Why do we have principals deciding that they know a better way than the state education law?”

As to the advance letters, Curr says, “Just because you sent 2 letters home does not mean you weren’t breaking the law in the first place…They don’t have to opt out, they have to opt in. That’s the law.”

JROTC was instituted by Congress in 1916 to steer kids toward military careers in preparation for World War One. Recent years have seen the program grow, although predominantly in poor and minority neighborhoods (Just imagine the outcry if the freshman class at Amherst Central were to suddenly find themselves enrolled in a military training class without their parents’ permission).

But that’s just one part of this story. The other half is the financial cost to our beleaguered city’s bedraggled school district.

There are at least five JROTC programs currently operating in Buffalo: three from the Army, one Air Force and one Marine Corps, operating at Hutch Tech and other schools including Buffalo Traditional, McKinley, and South Park. Apparently, Hutch Tech is the only one with an opt-out system, rather than the more traditional (and legal) opt-in variety. 

But even for those programs that don’t forcibly conscript 14-year-olds, the costs are high. Focusing again on Hutch Tech, Curr gave us an idea how expensive this might be:

“Once the DoD and JROTC as a program get into a school, they have this two instructor rule. You have to have an enlisted guy; you have to have an officer in charge. Then, when you’re talking about military property you have to have a property accountability custodian. There has to be minimum facilities requirements. So this can become quite an economic burden to school districts…

“All these retirees are double-dipping. They get a full military pension—you have to be a retired military guy to get the job. If they worked for the federal government their wages would be offset. But if you go out and teach JROTC, you get both.”

But aren’t the Feds paying for it?

“None of our claims about the budget and the money being spent have received a counterclaim that it’s federally reimbursed. So I can only deduce at this point that, like many other programs we’ve seen nationwide and throughout New York state—Rochester’s programs and Albany’s programs that once they seed the program, those monies don’t go beyond the seeding of the program. It’s up to the school districts to support them.”

Beyond salaries, there is equipment to pay for: all of it paid by the school district. “If these kids are drilling with rifles,” Curr says, “the Buffalo school district is paying for guns.”

Seems like they could save a little cash for the books and learning and stuff. Maybe they should ask the kids to bring their guns from home. While some parents are angry that JROTC even exists at their kids’ schools, Curr, a Gulf War combat veteran, insists this isn’t an anti-military crusade:

“It’s not about whether or not it’s a valid option for children to have JROTC. It’s about whether there is compliance with the state law, which says it should be voluntary, and after that, the parents have to approve.”

Last Wednesday, October 12, nine parents lined up to complain to the school board on the issue. It was standing room only, crowded with students. The atmosphere was emotional; talk strayed to issues of militarism and war. After the parents spoke, Superintendent James A. Williams, swiftly gaining a reputation as a short-tempered speaker, launched into a fulminating diatribe, expressing solidarity with his principal. Then Bruce Beyer, a politically active parent who has been involved in this controversy from the beginning, chimed in. “Beyer made a comment to the effect of ‘even though it’s gonna cost a lawsuit, and it’s against the law,’ ” says Curr. In response, Williams “had the audacity to tell the crowd, who booed him, that he didn’t care about the law.” Later on, a school board member cautioned Curr and Beyer not to “take too much” out of the superintendent’s remarks.

Indeed, the board says that next year, the program will go legit—opt-in rather than opt-out. But what about this year? “What we’re saying is that’s not good enough,” Curr says. “These kids need to be discharged, Okay? They were fraudulently enlisted, they need to be discharged. We don’t draft adults; we don’t draft children. And they haven’t gone that far yet. We’re taking this to the state department of education and let there be no mistake; these kids will be disenrolled this school year.”

At least someone cares about the law.

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