Threats may hinder efforts to revive JROTC
by Heather Cassell
Students in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program in San Francisco public schools hope to make their case for retaining the program to the new Board of Education next month. But recent alleged threats to one student opponent of JROTC and to an incoming board member may hinder that effort.
The school board voted 4-2 in November to disband the JROTC program by the 2008 academic year. In its place, commissioners called for the creation of alternative programs that they said would provide the same benefits without the military's involvement.
The Bay Area Reporter reported several weeks ago of threats made on the MySpace page of Lowell High School student Mara Kubrin, an outspoken critic of JROTC. Since then, the paper has learned of threats made to Commissioner-elect Jane Kim. Commissioner Mark Sanchez also received a threatening e-mail.
An article published in The Lowell student paper at the beginning of December stated that students plan to try to bring the JROTC phase-out issue before the board in January. They hope that with three new board members being sworn in on January 9, they will be able to sway more votes toward saving JROTC. Additionally, the board will elect its new president at the same meeting.
Openly gay Commissioner Mark Sanchez, who is poised to potentially be the next board president, said that it's "not likely that we will do that." Sanchez was one of the leaders behind the resolution to phase out JROTC.
The Web bulletin board and e-mail threats received by Kubrin, the student who presented 800 signatures against the JROTC program to the Board of Education at the November 14 meeting, and incoming Commissioner Kim are still under investigation.
Some board members are confident that they have identified the student who posted a threat on a Web bulletin board stating, "Jane Kim must die." Kim, along with Commissioner Eric Mar, spoke with the student, whom they declined to identify in order to protect his identity.
Kim told the B.A.R. that she decided the best way to handle the situation was to speak directly with the student and that she felt his regrets for his actions were sincere.
Mar, who found the post and forwarded it on to the board's legal counsel, disagrees with Kim that the student expressed genuine remorse for his actions. He views the threats as very serious and has the board's legal counsel working with the San Francisco Police Department to look into the matter. It remains unclear whether the person who allegedly hacked into Kubrin's MySpace account and posted her contact information along with altered photos of her on the Internet encouraging harm is the same person who posted the threat to Kim.
Kubrin immediately deleted her MySpace account and told the B.A.R. during a recent interview that nothing has happened since the initial threats. The SFPD has been uncooperative by making it difficult for Kubrin to add to her police report after doing some of her own investigating as well as not returning her parents' phone calls checking on the progress of their report, according to Kubrin and her father, David Kubrin.
The Kubrins filed a second police report on December 19, but the officer stated there wasn't much that they could do, Mara Kubrin said.
San Francisco police did not return a call seeking comment.
"I don't think that the cops will actually do anything about this because it's not as much of a direct threat and because nothing ever happened to me," said Kubrin. "I would like to know the person who is responsible for publicly humiliating me and trying to encourage violence against me and for him to get a little bit punished."
Sanchez agreed with Kubrin. "I don't know how much the school itself can do about others infiltrating somebody's MySpace account, but my suspicion is that since the school administration and our district administration is pro-JROTC they might be reluctant to try to go after people who are pro-JROTC," he said. "I hope that's not the case, but it may very well be the case."
"It seems to me that district staff are not even following our anti-discrimination, [anti-] harassment, and hate crimes policies even though a student was the victim of hate speech which was sexist and violent," said Mar in an e-mail to the B.A.R. "Our staff at Lowell were not alert, did not immediately respond to Mara and her dad's requests for help, and they have done little to create a supportive environment for her safety and well-being."
Mar also said that the teaching moment to make students aware of the school district's anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and the consequences for violating these policies has been lost.
Lowell Principal Amy Hanson was not available for comment. Previously, the JROTC instructor at Lowell, Doug Bullard, told the B.A.R. that Kubrin had brought the threatening messages to his attention but that he had not alerted Hanson.
Kubrin said that she hopes the incidents will help prevent the board from reversing its November decision to phase out JROTC.
"I would like people to know that the students who are supposedly being taught discipline are using that to threaten people who disagree with them," said Kubrin. She hopes that JROTC students will focus on working to develop a program that they like in place of JROTC.
Sanchez is confident about the board's ability to come up with several programs to replace JROTC by the time it is phased out. He pointed out that commissioners have a year and a half to prepare, but the board won't waste any time. In January, the board is expected to issue a call to select members from constituent groups as well as students to establish a task force to seek out new programs.