The Portland School Board voted unanimously to allow anti-war protesters to set up alongside military recruiters and giving them equal footing in public high schools – a move that some critics are calling an insult to the military.
Board members said the wanted to give students a balanced view of what military service might mean – outside the pitch delivered by military recruiters.
“There is nothing in this resolution that says there is a condemnation of military service,” board vice chairman Martin Gonzalez told the Associated Press. “There is a desire on our part for our students to become more educated in the choices that they are making.
Supporters of the plan said it was important for students to learn about the potential downsides of military enlistment.
“The military is not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes the way it’s used is a bad thing,” Grant Remington, a member of Veterans for Peace told Fox 12. But military veterans in Portland are outraged by the move.
“There is an anti-military bias in many minds,” said Richard Kemp, a member of Portland’s American Legion Post One.
Kemp told Fox News that in fairness, the rule change should require that opposition be presented to any recruiter appearing on campus.
Veteran Reese Lloyd said the decision was insulting.
“What are they saying – suggesting – about all of us who have served, those who are serving now?” he asked Fox 12.
The chief operations officer for the Oregon Army National Guard said that recruiting in Portland public schools is not exactly easy.
“We have difficulty making inroads to even get into those Portland Schools,” Lt. Col. Cary Miller told the AP. “My recruiting force is a professional force. They’re not going to step out of line or lie to kids.”
The big question is how the board will implement the new policy. Staff members are expected to write rules governing which anti-war protesters and peace activists will be able to recruit.
“It’s really a matter of fairness,” John Grueschow, with War Resisters League told Fox 12. “Congress mandates that high schools have to invite the military in. We feel there should be a response. We’re not telling kids not to join the military.”
So-called “counter recruiters” will be allowed on campus in January. The policy is similar to ones used by schools in San Francisco and Seattle.
With reporting from the Associated Press & KPTV-Fox 12