By Theresa Knapp Enos
Wed Aug 06, 2008
Raynham - Some call it counter-recruitment.
Ray Ajemian prefers to call it "truth in advertising."
Whatever the terminology, the question of whether the
Bridgewater-Raynham schools should allow anti-war groups equal access
to students as military recruiters will be taken up tomorrow at a
meeting of the Counter Recruitment Subcommittee.
The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the LaLiberte
Elementary School, 777 Pleasant St., Raynham.
Ajemian, 66, a member of Bridgewater-based Citizens for an Informed
Community, an anti-war group, wants permission to set up a table in
the high school hallway just as military recruiters do to educate
students who are thinking about entering the armed forces.
He was granted permission last spring by the high school principal,
but that was overturned by the district's then-Director of Business
Services Joseph Delude and then-Superintendent George Guasconi, both
of whom have since retired.
Subcommittee members who will discuss the matter Wednesday include
Joseph Gillis Jr. and Patricia Leighton of Bridgewater, and Stephen
M. Donohue of Raynham.
Gillis said the subcommittee will gather information this week to
make a presentation to the full School Committee which will then
address the district's policy on the issue.
While Ajemian argues the school district has a requirement to protect
the rights of the students and provide them with pros and cons about
joining the military, Gillis says, "There's also a bigger requirement
that we're part of a country and the military is a major part of what
makes the United States what it is."
Gillis noted that an Internet search for "counter-recruiting"
produced some extreme results, many of which appear to be anti-military.
"We're not opposed to the military," said Ajemian. "We're only asking
that (high school students and parents) have free knowledge and that
they make that decision based on that knowledge … It's the fair thing to do."
Nationally, counter-recruiters ranging from Vietnam War veterans to
high school students formed a network at meetings in Philadelphia in
the summers of 2003 and 2004, according to a March 2005 article in
USA Today. The American Friends Service Committee has even prepared a
brochure titled, "Do You Know Enough to Enlist?" deliberately
designed to look like a military recruiting brochure, according to the article.
Counter-recruiters have gained access to the Los Angeles Unified
School District, while in San Francisco, members of a group called
the Raging Grannies visit high schools to offer political buttons,
talk to students who are choosing whether to go into the military,
and sing peace songs and dance.
Besides the tables, Ajemian also wants to spread the word among
parents that they can choose not to have their student's personal
information provided to the government for military recruiting
purposes, and that high school students are not required to take the
Army Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test to see if they are
well-suited to serve in the country's armed forces.
Ajemian says his group seeks only to provide both sides of the story.
He notes that he served in the armed forces during the Vietnam era
(providing training, not on the front lines) and says that he had a
good military experience, but others do not.
His group seeks to provide teenagers with an arsenal of information
including relevant questions for military recruiters.
"Students have to be fully aware, that's all," says Ajemian. "All
we're asking is to let us give the other side and let (students) make
up their own mind."