BAY-Peace activists celebrate victory at Oakland Unified School District, after a school board vote May 12 made OUSD the first district in the country to have a policy offering students the chance to OPT OUT of the private recruitment database known as JAMRS.
The PMRO Peace Building program, an active participant in AFSC’s National Youth and Militarism Task Force, works locally with a broad network to bring “truth in recruitment” work to local schools and communities and to counter disproportionate military recruitment in low-income communities of color.
The US military, involved in protracted Iraq and Afghanistan occupations while maintaining units deployed to every corner of the world, puts pressure on military recruiters to recruit aggressively in low-income communities and particularly in public schools. Evidence of the desperation includes a high suicide rate among recruiters as well as Pentagon lobbying to include a viable military option in the language of the DREAM Act, legislation to offer a path to citizenship for currently undocumented high school youth. AFSC is working hard to address this aggressive campaign with an equally robust presence in public high schools to counter the one sided perspective offered by military recruiters. Our efforts are divided into two campaigns. We are supporting a coalition of adult allies active in “truth in recruitment,” known as Full Picture, and we are working directly with youth most affected to resist and to demilitarize their schools.
Full Picture allies with school communities in the San Francisco Bay Area to balance the information and impact of military recruitment campaigns, by supporting and empowering youth and their families to make informed decisions about the variety of options available for creating bright and self-determined futures. We are looking for volunteers to help: table at career fairs, leaflet before or after school, identify sympathetic students, parents, teachers, guidance counselors and administrators, coordinate presentations, stock materials, and monitor recruiter access at a school, support student groups, and supply books and information to teachers, and libraries. (We provide the materials.)
We also work directly with young people organizing to resist aggressive military recruitment. Navy veteran and AFSC counter-recruitment staff Pablo Paredes leads hundreds of classroom workshops every year at public high schools throughout the Bay Area. Pablo also mentors young activists directly, building their militarism critique and organizing skills. Youth learn to find their voices through photography, video production, theater and writing, and organizer skills like facilitating meetings, planning projects, and public speaking. Summer base building has included educational road trips as far as San Diego and Chicago, connecting with counter-recruitment activists in several cities. Last spring, in partnership with BAY-Peace (Better Alternatives for Youth), we took the youth-led Youth Manifesto Campaign to success in Oakland, where the OUSD Board of Education approved the strongest protection of student privacy against military recruitment in the nation. Building on this victory, we are working with boards of education in several neighboring districts, including San Francisco and Berkeley