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Disbanding jROTC: a Solution for Safer Schools?

Kimberlee Leonard

Posted on March 24, 2018 18:07

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Recent school shootings have everyone calling for change. The women-led activist group CODEPINK is calling for a national disbanding of jROTC programs. Not only will this not solve the problem, but it will hurt the thousands of students helped by these programs every year.

The Parkland shooting has set off a series of political and social debates across the country. All agree that a lot of work is needed to find productive solutions. In response, grassroots activist organization CODEPINK is calling to end jROTC programs across the country.

CODEPINK holds as its mission, “to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace….” The group claims that jROTC programs militarize kids and is essentially training mass shooters like Nikolas Cruz, a former cadet.

The mission of the Army jROTC is, “Motivating Young People to be Better Citizens.” In spite of this mission, many misconstrue kids walking around in uniforms as militarization. But this isn’t the reality. The jROTC program teaches leadership, team building, character development and personal responsibility through classes and extracurricular activities.

Unfortunately, CODEPINK seeks to punish thousands of good kids benefiting from the program because of one tragic story. The sad truth is jROTC probably tried to help Nikolas Cruz and, for a myriad of reasons, couldn’t. Cruz had a well-documented troubled past.

Cruz came from a broken home. While news outlets like Fox News and CNN are quick to note that most school shooters come from broken homes, few have discussions about solutions. In his 2013 Psychology Today article, Mark Banschick, M.D. explains that single moms aren’t always enough to help boys develop a positive masculine self-identity.   

As boys become teenagers, moms have a hard time disciplining angry teenage sons. There is no question this is exacerbated in the single mother household. As a single mother of a teenage boy, finding positive male influences is one of my biggest parenting concerns. Where does a boy like mine who is probably a typical “at-risk flag” get a positive role model, a mentor or a male adult he can trust? For my son, this is the jROTC program.

What does so-called “militarization” look like? These are kids:

  • Worried about getting an A on their AP History test.
  • Speaking respectfully with phrases like, “Yes Ma’am,” and “No, Sir.”
  • Cleaning the football stadium after Friday night games, sometimes staying until 1:00 am cleaning up everyone else’s trash.
  • Working with community non-profits such as the Special Olympics participating towards better communities of inclusion.

Not every jROTC program has marksmanship. Many teach CPR/First Aid, CERT and emergency planning. The jROTC leadership program builds confidence in kids, speaking to large groups and learning to appreciate diverse opinions. The jROTC program isn’t exclusively for at-risk kids; many find themselves in the program because of positive skills and college scholarship opportunities.

Ending this program isn’t the solution to ending school shootings. If anything, it increases the likelihood of more. Ending jROTC ends a program that reduces bullying and gives participants resources and interpersonal skills for success regardless of their background.

There was a bad seed named Nikolas Cruz. The entire jROTC program shouldn’t be judged based on one troubled child. It should instead be judged for the thousands it has served successfully.

Kimberlee Leonard

Posted on March 24, 2018 18:07

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