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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
April 29, 2005

High school students seek to bar military recruiters

Cincinnati--Students at a Cincinnati public high school want to bar military recruiters from their campus because the Pentagon discriminates against gays and lesbians.

The Student Congress of Walnut Hills High School passed a resolution barring groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, race or religion.

The resolution, presented by Students Against War and for Social Justice, passed the congress on a vote of 29 to 4, with seven abstentions. It was then presented to the School Decision-Making Committee on April 21.

The committee, a body of administrators, teachers, parents and community members, will reconvene in three weeks to vote on it. If it approves the measure, the Student Congress will take it to the Cincinnati Board of Education.

Should the school board approve it, the resolution would immediately bar military recruiters from campus because of the Pentagon�s ban on openly gay personnel.

That action, however, could run afoul of the federal �No Child Left Behind� law pushed by the Bush administration, which protects access to public schools for military recruiters and the Boy Scouts of America, which also bars gays.

The law requires schools to provide confidential contact information for students to military recruiters unless parents specifically request that their child�s information be withheld. It also mandates that military recruiters have the same access to students that colleges and prospective employers are normally granted.

Military sources say that barring recruiters could result in legal action against the school. Traven La Botz, the student who first brought up the resolution, believes otherwise.

�I know that our school doesn�t receive federal funding, so any threats as far as loss of federal funding don�t apply to Walnut Hills,� he said, �or they do apply but it�s hard for them to be enforced.�

�I know that our school is required to give out the personal information of students, which it does and will continue doing, but I thought it was important, even if this gets defeated somewhere higher up, to say that as students we do not appreciate the conduct of the military and would no longer like them on our campus.�

The idea was born on the National Day of Silence on April 13, when an estimated 450,000 students across the country refrained from speaking for the day to bring attention to society silencing LGBT people.

La Botz, however, broke his silence on that day.

�I brought this up in front of the Student Congress because our school every year participates in a very big way in the Day of Silence, and so during that day I had been reading a little bit about what has been happening at Harvard, that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld their rights as a school, because of a civil rights document they had, they could keep military recruiters from campus,� La Botz recounted. �So on the Day of Silence I went and talked to the principal, I broke my vow of silence, and asked him how we would go about doing this on our campus.�

La Botz does not know how the local School Decision-Making Committee will vote on the matter, but he believes that the measure is in keeping with other recent events in Cincinnati.

�I think Cincinnati already spoke up on this issue with the repeal of Article 12,� he said. �Cincinnati said that we support the rights of all people, and that�s what my school is saying, and I hope that the school board would respect that.�

Article 12, a 1993 measure repealed by voter initiative last November, barred the city council from granting any protections to gay men, lesbians or bisexuals.



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