Sexual misconduct unbecoming an officer

Sexual misconduct unbecoming an officer

JROTC teacher investigated at Kealakehe High

By Shawn James Leavy
Wednesday, August 8, 2007 9:35 AM HST

A Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) teacher is awaiting disciplinary judgment from the DOE and undergoing investigation by county prosecutors for allegedly having sexual relations with a Kealakehe High School student. The alleged contact was first reported to law enforcement on April 10th. If proven true, the case at Kealakehe will be marked as an extreme incident calling into question the JROTC’s unchecked access and influential presence within U.S. public schools.

The Hawai`i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney said they are investigating the sexual misconduct case, but have yet to make any charges.

Hawai`i State Department of Education Office of Civil Rights Compliance Director Susan Kitsu said the DOE’s internal investigation of the JROTC teacher has been referred to DOE Complex Area Superintendent Art Souza and Kealakehe High Principal Wil Murakami for disciplinary judgment. “I’m not sure where they’re at,” said Kitsu.

When asked what the status of the case is, Murakami said “the case is closed,” but later clarified that the DOE’s investigation has been completed. When asked what disciplinary action the DOE intends to take, he said that decision will not be publicly released. “In the DOE, any matter that is a personnel issue . . . with regards to the result, that is kept confidential,” said Murakami.

Souza was off-island at a superintendent’s leadership retreat and was unavailable for comment.

A July 25th West Hawai`i Today article on the incident did not specifically mention or disclose that the teacher in question is affiliated with the Army. In the article, Souza said “the circumstances of the case may warrant the involvement of another decision-making party,” alluding that the case would require a disciplinary judgment by the military.

The Kealakehe High School JROTC Department states its mission is “to motivate young people to become better citizens, strengthen character by teaching values associated with service life and develop leadership potential.” JROTC programs, which run through the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, are taught as elective courses at more than three thousand high schools nationwide. There are JROTC units in 25 out of the 42 total Hawai`i Public High Schools. The program is highly regarded by state lawmakers, who fund the program with assistance from the federal Department of Defense. In June 2006, Governor Linda Lingle lauded the program, saying “JROTC cadets are our future leaders. They are role models for their peers and we hope that they will continue to give back to the community.”

In a 2003 funding appropriation by the state legislature for the Kealakehe High JROTC, lawmakers stated “the legislature finds that Congress established the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program in 1916 with the broad mandate to develop good citizenship and responsibility in young people. JROTC courses are led by active duty and retired military personnel who teach good citizenship, personal responsibility, and service to country. Unlike college-level ROTC programs, JROTC programs do not obligate participating students to join the military. JROTC programs build self-discipline, teamwork, motivation, and confidence in young people, which decreases school-related disciplinary problems for many participating students.

Kyle Kajihiro, director of the Hawai`i American Friend’s Service Committee, has a critical view of the program. He stated “JROTC is a vehicle for grooming recruits and for propagating and normalizing military ideology in our schools and community. It tends to desensitize us to the organized violence that warfare represents.”

Ret. Lt. Colonial Malakie of the Kealakehe High Army JROTC and Ret. Lt. Commander Annette Schlegeimilch of the Waiakea High Navy JROTC both stressed that their JROTC teaching is not a recruiting tool for the military. Congressional records indicate otherwise.

For example, the Senate Armed Services Committee Report on the National Defense Authorization Act for 2000, stated “the committee recognizes that there is a direct relationship between the JROTC program and recruitment. Strong testimony from the Joint Chiefs of Staff this year confirmed this relationship. More than half of the young men and women who voluntarily participate in this high school program affiliate with the military in some fashion after graduation.”

Before the Military Personnel Subcommittee House Committee on Armed Services, commenting on sustaining the U.S.A.’s All-Volunteer Force, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Rudy De Leon made the following direct statements.

“With regard to recruiting, surveys of Junior ROTC cadets indicate that about 35 percent of the graduating high school seniors in School Year 1997-98 with more than two years participation in the JROTC program are interested in some type of military affiliation (active duty enlistment, officer program participation, or service in the Reserve or Guard). Translating this to hard recruiting numbers, in FYs 1996-1999, about 8,000 new recruits per year entered active duty after completing two years of Junior ROTC. The proportion of JROTC graduates who enter the military following completion of high school is roughly five times greater that the proportion of non-JROTC students.”

In November of 2006, the San Francisco School Board voted to eliminate JROTC from its city schools. Critics of the move, including San Francisco’s mayor, said it would cause the city to be identified as disrespectful towards the sacrifices of men and women in uniform.

A credo posted on the Waiakea JROTC classroom wall, says, in part:”This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My rifle without me is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me . . . Before God I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but PEACE.”

Kajihiro says that “the spread of military culture in our schools is a big problem if we truly want to reduce violence in schools.”

“Military discipline is based on a rigid hierarchy, an unquestioning obedience to orders, and when this fails, intimidation and force. Military culture is also charged with a highly aggressive masculinity that tends to denigrate women. This feeds the high rates of sex assault and domestic violence in the military.”

Listeners to local radio station Da Beat 95.9 FM, or any other youth-aimed program, often hear military recruitment ads that say, “serve your country, get regular paychecks and earn money for college . . . ”

In addressing the issue of potential sexual misconduct by its teachers, the Marine Corps JROTC instructor’s handbook states, “instructors must, at all times, avoid any and all occasions of fraternization with cadets, especially with the opposite sex. Admiring cadets often idolize instructors as role models, and there may be an occasion when a cadet attempts to be personal and affectionate with an instructor. Any confirmed incident of an improper relationship between an instructor and a cadet will be cause for immediate de-certification from the Marine Corps JROTC program, and may result in legal charges.”

“The alleged sexual encounter between a student and a JROTC instructor represents an abuse of power and is symptomatic of the bigger problem of militarism,” said Kajihiro. “Local school and elected officials need to stop their uncritical deference to the military and become stronger advocates of our youth and our community.”

He continued “while we must hold the individual JROTC instructor accountable . . . let’s not lose sight of the larger systemic and policy issues raised by this case.”


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