Last night, I participated at a press conference to unveil a human rights resolution opposing the proposed DeKalb County Marine Corp. Institute (DCMI). DCMI would expose students as young as 14 to military discipline, military culture, and military training. It will be funded in part by the Marine Corps out of its recruitment budget and could become a pipeline for targeted minority recruitment into the military.
The school was originally slated to open in August. Due to the strong community mobilization against this proposal, the DeKalb County Board of Education announced on Friday that it has postponed the opening date. While celebrating this victory yesterday evening, we called on the Board of Education not to revive this or similar proposals meant to militarize public school education.
We based this demand on the U.S. international human rights obligations. The United States has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Because the United States ratified the Optional Protocol in 2002, the Protocol is binding on the U.S. government and local government entities and agents, including DeKalb County.
Under a binding declaration entered by the U.S., 17 is the absolute minimum age for military recruitment (even though the prevailing international standard is to prohibit the voluntary recruitment of children under the age of 18 into the military—in fact, 89 of 128 countries that are parties to the Optional Protocol have a “straight-18” standard that sets 18 as the minimum age for recruitment).
In May 2008, the ACLU submitted a report to the Committee on Rights of the Child (CRC), the United Nations body that monitors compliance with the Optional Protocol, detailing the government’s failure to comply with its obligations under the Optional Protocol. The ACLU found that the U.S. military continues to engage in tactics designed to recruit students under the age of 17. The ACLU also found that U.S. military recruitment tactics disproportionately target low-income youth and students of color. After examining U.S. recruitment practices last year, the CRC called on the U.S. to end military training in public schools and stop targeting racial minorities or low-income children for recruitment.
Establishment of DMCI or any similar institution in DeKalb County would clearly run counter to the United States’ international human rights obligations.
After the press conference, more than 30 community members, including several DeKalb County parents, attended the DeKalb Board of Education meeting to speak against any future prospect for DMCI. One speaker also read out the human rights resolution.
Through their speaking out and reading of the human rights resolution last night, community members conveyed this message to the DeKalb County Board of Education: military training and abusive recruitment practices have no place in DeKalb County public schools; not now, not ever.