Spurred by the military experience of one of its board members, Hannibal’s Board of Education will study whether to set up a Junior ROTC program at the high school.
Board member Randy Siver, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, is advocating the idea. “It’s a great thing,” he said recently.
Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps units have been around nearly a century. They exist, according to federal law, “to instill in students in secondary educational institutions the values of citizenship, service to the United States, and personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment.”
Each branch of the service has its own JROTC organization.
Students who join a JROTC unit are not obligated to join the military. About a third of students who do take part in a JROTC unit eventually join one of the services, according to military officials.
Siver noted that Mexico High School has had a JROTC unit for years and it has worked well. He said JROTC programs provide discipline, exercise, and help improve student grades. High school principal Dr. Brian Schmitt said he had spoken with an official in Mexico who said the district “had had a good experience” with JROTC.
The program is not without controversy. Anti-war groups have argued that JROTCs are attempts to get around restrictions against recruiting in schools. There’s supposed to be no up-front recruiting, though top military officials have said that JROTC is one of their best tools for encouraging new recruits. In 2005, the New York Civil Liberties Union pushed publicly to stop a Buffalo city school district technical high school from automatically enrolling all of its students in a JROTC program unless they opted out before a certain date. The law says students must opt to join.
Siver said the district would have to pay part of the cost of the two instructors sent by the military to run the program.
The board gave its approval for a committee of board members, administrators, teachers and students to look at the issue.