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Thursday, November 06, 2008

San Francisco Votes to Save JROTC

San Francisco, a city largely known for its anti-military reputation and liberal leanings, voted on Nov. 4 to save the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program that is slated to be phased out of the city's public schools.

Proposition V - the measure in support of keeping the JROTC training program in high schools - passed by 53 percent. However, the ballot measure is not binding and the elective could still be removed from high schools.

Since 2006, JROTC opponents have worked to eliminate this military-backed program arguing it encourages members to discriminate against homosexuals who are banned from openly serving in the military. So the San Francisco Unified School District took action against the program.

"The [San Francisco] School Board decided to phase out JROTC because San Franciscans do not want military recruiters in our schools and do not support a program that discriminates against the [gay] community with its 'don't ask, don't tell' policies," according to the "Vote No on V" website.

But, JROTC supporters couldn't disagree more. School administrators, teachers and students tout the program as a great local civics program that teaches leadership, discipline and the importance of responsibility to the 1,600 cadets now in San Francisco schools, according to the San Francisco voters' handbook.

In and effort to stop the School Board's plans to phase JROTC out, proponents of Proposition V gathered enough signatures to put the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot.

"We should be supporting the JROTC, getting people in programs that build self-esteem, build discipline and give people a sense of purpose," San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom told KCBS television.

If the School Board continues with its plans to eliminate the elective by June 2009, schools will offer an alternative called the "Student Emergency Response Volunteers."

Through SERV, students may be able to learn first aid, fire safety, search and rescue and leadership skills, but proponents of Prop V are doubtful that it will fill the void left by eliminating JROTC.

"San Francisco voters are too smart," Michael Bernick a supporter of the military program told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The neighborhood response program may be a fine educational program for youth, but it is no alternative to JROTC."

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