UPDATE (Jan 21): After a meeting last week with the administration, it appears that AFSC is likely going to continue to be prevented from accessing the school, but that AFSC is the ONLY group that has been prevented from doing so. Join us tonight.
For nearly a decade, AFSC has participated in tabling and offering classroom talks to students in local high schools about alternatives students to enlisting in the military. We pass out literature that encourages students to pursue college, community college, union apprenticeships, and more. We encourage students to know enough about the military before enlisting.
Last March, AFSC was we were told that – though we had done nothing wrong – per the prerogative of the new Superintendent, Jeffrey Peterson, AFSC was not welcome in the school any longer.
Since then, the Superintendent has claimed to have disallowed all visitors to the school until a new policy was put into place. When we alerted the community that this was going on, the Trustees of the school indicated that if the military would have access to the school, it was expected that organizations like AFSC that offer an alternative viewpoint would be allowed in.
However, in the last month, the Superintendent has submitted a policy to be considered on Tuesday that would INCLUDE military recruiters, but EXCLUDE AFSC and organizations that provide materials about military recruitment. The new policy, put forward by the Superintendent, stipulates that permission to provide literature at a table (as AFSC has done for years) will be denied to an organization unless it provides “educational opportunities, employment, or scholarship funds.” Therefore, the military will be able to openly solicit recruits, but AFSC will be unable to provide material that suggests alternative options.
Even more ominous, the Superintendent’s new policy (entitled “Teaching About Controversial Issues/Controversial Speakers”):
- Prohibits the distribution of material on “controversial issues” to students
- Mandates that ALL teachers need permission from the principal to invite visitors from outside the school
- Student groups must have permission from the principal to conduct forums on “controversial issues”
- Teachers must ensure that the “reasoned arguments of all sides of an issue are given equal presentation and emphasis” (think creationism vs. evolution)
“Controversial issues” is, of course, not defined, and left to the discretion of the administration.
WHAT CAN YOU DO:
- You can join us tonight (January 21) at 5pm during the public comment period at the School Trustee meeting in the library of Smith Vocational and Agricultural to urge the Trustees of the school from adopting this policy. The Facebook event for this gathering is linked here.
- If you can’t make the meeting on Tuesday, please write to the Daily Hampshire Gazette (at email@example.com) or click here to access their page (http://input.gazettenet.com/gazettenet/letter.php)
- If you are a parent of a student in Smith Vocational High School and are disturbed by the removal of a peace organization in order to favor a climate of recruiting students for war, please be in touch. Call us at (413) 584-8975 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please pass this message on!