“They are recruiting people of color to fight for a country that might let them drown in New Orleans,” testified Jeff Rice at the Seattle School Board’s September 7 meeting in John Stanford Center Auditorium. The meeting was packed with students, parents, and antiwar activists demanding an end to recruitment in Seattle schools.
But as Army spokesperson Douglas Smith explains, “[t]he No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to let us have access to these students.” (Christian Science Monitor, 5/18/05) Schools that refuse to comply risk losing federal funding.
Citing this law, the Seattle School Board and many others across the country refused to ban recruiters, instead limiting itself to a few restrictions on military recruiters’ access to students.
A Lost Cause?
Does the threat of losing federal funding make our fight to ban recruiters from schools a lost cause? Not in the least. Like any unjust law, it can be broken and defeated under the impact of a mass movement.
Imagine if the Seattle School Board, or any other major urban school district, took the bold step of banning recruiters. Across the country, millions of students, parents, teachers, and community members are outraged at Bush’s war in Iraq and the growing presence of recruiters in schools. They would rally to Seattle’s support and launch campaigns in cities across the country to get their school boards to also ban recruiters.
Spreading the struggle would be critical. Left isolated, it is possible Bush would dare to cut one city’s school funds.
But if even just three or four other major cities joined together in a stand against Bush, it would prove politically impossible to enforce No Child Left Behind. Cutting federal funding for schools in a major city in retaliation for banning recruiters would be met with a storm of outrage and protest across the country.
In this context, YAWR and the broader antiwar movement could organize mass student strikes and demonstrations of tens of thousands. Bush’s popularity would plummet even further, as would general support for the war in Iraq. In such a political test, the power of protest could overcome a weakened White House.