pitching military service to high school students tout job
training, college scholarships, foreign travel and lifelong
Palm Beach County peace group offers a different view:
Enlisting in the armed forces isn't like signing with a job
placement agency. War can kill you.
why peace activists say students who hear from recruiters in
school should also expect to hear from them.
want to be there to balance that perspective," said
Javier del Sol, an activist and professional storyteller with
a gray ponytail and a bandana knotted around his head.
"The military has money and personnel. But a few people
can make a difference."
For now, the ideological battle will play out first in Lake
Worth High School, which claims one of the largest JROTC
programs in the world, in a town that is a center for
Giving peace a chance
Javier del Sol and Marie Zwicker, members of the Palm
Beach Area Draft Counselors, plan to go into Lake
Worth High School next year to balance what military
recruiters tell students about enlistment.
(Sun-Sentinel Staff photo/Joe Amon)
a pilot program this fall, students at Lake Worth High could
see peace recruiters in the cafeteria, career fairs,
assemblies, classrooms and JROTC classes -- all the places on
campus they now see uniformed military representatives. In
time, Palm Beach Area Draft Counseling, a Quaker-sponsored
anti-war group, says it will seek equal access to all Palm
Beach County schools. And they'd like their campaign to spread
to Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
Sol and Marie Zwicker, who joined the anti-war fight in the
1960s, say they're recruiters for peace. They'll counter
claims made by recruiters and distribute information on
alternatives to the armed services, such as the Peace Corps
and college degrees in diplomacy. And they say they'll tell
students of their right to not have personal information
shared with representatives of the Army, Navy, Air Force and
pilot peace program appears to be on firm legal footing
because of a little-known 1982 U.S. district court ruling
granting the peace group, of which Zwicker was a member, the
same access to students and the right to hand out literature.
the decades that followed, peace groups around the nation have
won similar cases. But principals continue to resist giving
military detractors access to students, said Oskar Castro of
the National Youth and Militarism Program, a Quaker group, in
Philadelphia. If the Lake Worth High School program moves
forward, it could be one of the few programs of its kind,
district officials in Broward and Miami-Dade say they are not
aware of any similar anti-military activism in their schools.
Worth principal Ana Meehan said details must be sorted out,
but she's open to the idea of letting Palm Beach Area Draft
Counseling onto the campus.
looking for a balanced approach," Meehan said. "From
what I've seen, veterans and parents are open to all points of
view, particularly veterans because they understand what
democracy is. We want students to hear a variety of
McKee, principal at Boca Raton High School, said he would
prefer that the group focus on alternatives to enlistment and
not speak negatively about the military. Many students in his
school with relatives who are veterans might be offended, he
can see how their message could be construed as
anti-patriotic, and they would have to be sensitive of that in
their presentation and have to put energy into not creating a
disruption in order to be welcome on campus," McKee said.
Killian, 18, who graduated this year from the school's JROTC
program, said the peace group's campaign is unnecessary.
military protects the country and the people in it. We should
honor them and not right away say how horrible they are,"
Killian said. "People should know [war] is dangerous just
by knowing about history and growing up in this country."
David Holley, an Army recruiter assigned to Lake Worth High
School, said del Sol and Zwicker have a right to speak their
mind. But he's skeptical of their viewpoint because recruiters
can't force anyone to join an all-volunteer military, he said.
is going to stop them," Holley said of the peace
activists. "But it's really hard for them to know what
really goes on in the military unless they have experienced it
battle of ideas at Lake Worth High School may have something
to do with Lake Worth itself.
armed forces recruit heavily in this working-class city with a
growing number of immigrants from Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico.
The high school's Air Force JROTC, with 475 cadets, claims to
be the second largest in the world. But Lake Worth also is the
region's counterculture capital, having spawned many recent
anti-war, anti-globalization protests.
Sol said the military is particularly attractive to poor
residents who struggle to find good jobs or money for college
and are eager to be accepted as Americans. For foreign
nationals, the Department of Defense offers an expedited
citizenship program for those who enlist.
tries to visit the school cafeteria once a week to distribute
fliers, answer questions and meet potential recruits. He's
also invited to make his pitch to the JROTC class and the
school's magnet programs in medicine, carpentry, plumbing and
masonry, and criminal justice.
of Holley's most useful recruiting tools is the Armed Services
Vocational Aptitude Battery, a test administered by the
Department of Defense. The test, given in 14,000 schools
around South Florida and the nation, is either mandatory or
voluntary, depending on the school.
South Florida districts, the tests are given at the
North Miami Beach's Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School,
for example, juniors who don't take the PSAT are required to
take the test. At Coral Springs High, Principal Anne Lynch
said the tests are voluntary, but students are encouraged to
military requires the test for prospective recruits, using it
to find and place cadets. The schools, which get the test at
no cost, use the information to gauge abilities.
some schools, students sign up to take the test. In other
schools, all juniors or seniors are expected to take it.
Principals often aren't informed by the military that they can
opt out of sharing test scores and student contact with the
recruiters who administer the test.
Lake Worth High School, the test is given to all 11th-graders,
though students can decline to take it. The scores, along with
student grades and home contact information, are provided to
the peace group is allowed into the school, Zwicker said, it
would begin to monitor the test to make certain students are
told that it's voluntary.
group also intends to inform students that they can fill out a
form telling the school that they don't want any personal
information shared with recruiters. High schools must comply
with the requirement, part of the 2001 No Child Left Behind
act, or risk losing federal grants. Students and parents can
opt out by submitting a written request to the school district
asking that the information not be shared.
No Child Left Behind act also guarantees that military
recruiters have as much as access to schools as college and
Schurr, who has had three children go through Lake Worth High
School, said she's used to getting calls and brochures from
recruiters. She'd like to keep them out of the schools.
feel the same way about anything. It bothers me that people
are handing out Bibles at school. It's setting things up for
handing out information on the devil next," Schurr said.
"I don't think you'll ever get recruiters out of the
school. So people with an alternative view should definitely
Palm Beach Area Draft Counseling group has had a history in
U.S. federal district court judge ruled in 1982 that the Palm
Beach Area Draft Counseling group should have the "same
opportunity to distribute pamphlets, literature and related
material opposing participation in the military in the same
manner military recruiters are permitted to encourage
participation in the military."
the 1982 decision that granted the group equal access, del Sol
and a few others began to distribute materials to guidance
offices throughout the district. But the campaign ended with
the Cold War in the late 1980s.
war in Iraq and a proposal in Congress to re-establish the
draft spurred the two Lake Worth residents to action. Del Sol
said he expects to have more help this time. Finding
volunteers has become easier because of a flood of young
activists who have moved to Lake Worth in recent years.
aren't getting the whole story about joining the military in a
time of war, said Zwicker, who was one of the plaintiffs in
the 1982 case.
brochures have been sanitized, she said. They no longer show
combat. And they focus on glamorous jobs, not the ones on the
frontlines, she said.
need to be there," Zwicker said. "And all the
teachers need to be aware that if they invite a military
recruiter to a classroom to give a talk about why it's good to
be in the military, according to the agreement, they need to
be inviting us as well."
Copyright 2004, South Florida Sun-Sentinel