Wednesday, September 19, 2018

International (Week!) of Peace at Akins HS

Yesterday, Hart, Tami and I made our first school visit of the new semester to Akins HS, and we had great participation from students there. We decided to ask students to tell us about ways they've practiced their First Amendment freedoms recently instead of just asking them to list the freedoms. Several students mentioned that they had participated in the school walk-out protesting gun violence. Others talked about discussing LGBTQ rights and immigrant rights in their classrooms, attending their churches of choice and helping push for legislation to stop deportations of immigrants.

 Because this coming Friday is the International Day of Peace, we also asked students to write down actions that people can take to increase the peace. There were lots of thoughtful responses, including:

"Talk it out and actually listen to the other party."
"Put each other in each other's shoes."
"More people need to be kind and genuine."
"Use words and not guns or violence."
"I think the best first solution to every problem is education. As well as understanding and then to take action."
"Be more respectful to people."

"People have to speak out for what is right, and do things based on that.  Even if peace is impossible we should still aim for it."
"Responsibility. Taking care of yourself and others. Peace, Earth, Life."

Some of the many student responses to the reflection question

We did the Penny Poll, as usual, and Health Care was the top priority at 28% of the vote, Education at 24%, the Military at 16.5 % (veterans benefits were mentioned by at least one voter as being why she put her pennies in that jar), 15.5% for the Environment, 10% for Humanitarian Aid and 6% for NASA. Thanks to all Akins Eagles who came by the table and shared their thoughts with us!
t-shirt challenge for the day

Friday, September 14, 2018

Reminder: AISD policy limiting student access by military recruiters in our schools

A reminder to all students, teachers, administrators and parents within the Austin Independent School District:  AISD has a policy of protecting student privacy by placing these restrictions on military recruiters who visit AISD campuses.  This is the policy as adopted by the AISD School Board.  Any violations should be reported to the school's Principal.

GKC (Local) Policy for Recruiters on Campus:

The following guidelines shall apply to recruiters on District campuses:

1. All recruiters shall first report to the campus main office to obtain a visitor’s badge each time they visit school property.

2. The principal shall designate specific areas on each campus for recruiting purposes. Recruiting may not occur at school athletic events or other school-sponsored events, unless specifically authorized by the principal.

3. Recruiters shall not continue ongoing contact when a student makes it clear by speech or other conduct that contact with the recruiter is unwelcome. In no event may recruiters meet with a student under the age of 18 years off campus without written consent submitted to a campus administrator by the student’s parent or guardian.

4. Evidence of a parent’s or guardian’s intent to provide directory information upon request shall be respected. [See FL]  (This refers to the form that parents and guardians fill out for their students that can opt them out of allowing their contact information to be given to military recruiters)

5. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test shall be administered according to the same terms and conditions as other aptitude tests administered within the District. District schools shall select “Option 8” on the ASVAB test prior to the administration of the ASVAB at the school to ensure consistency with the opt-out provisions for release of contact information to the military.

6. Recruiting of any kind shall not be permitted at a time, place, and manner that disrupts classroom instruction. Recruiting in a classroom or other designated space shall be acceptable if it is at the invitation of authorized school personnel and part of a school-approved program.

7. Schools shall allow information regarding recruiting, including recruiting by the military and those advocating alternatives to the military, to be made available to students in an equivalent manner and location.

8. Recruiters shall not solicit student contact information directly from a student or require such information as a condition to participate in an activity or to receive an award or gift.

If a visitor fails to comply with the general rules or guidelines set out in this policy, the principal or other campus administrator may deny the visitor access to the campus in accordance with law. If a military recruiter fails to comply with the guidelines set out in this policy, the principal or other campus administrator may contact the military recruiter's supervisor to report the failure to comply and request that such individual not return to the campus.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The best way to protect students from violence

Quote of the day -- from an article in today's issue of the Austin American-Statesman about recommendations made by the Texas Senate Select Committee on Violence in Schools and School Security:

"The best way to protect students from violence is to prevent youth from considering violence as a solution to their problems in the first place." -- Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children

Monday, August 6, 2018

Vera May Shirley, Presente

I'm thinking today especially about Vera May Shirley, who was holding her first newborn son on August 6, 1945 when she heard the news about the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. She later named that moment as the beginning of her journey to pacifism, as she imagined the horror of mothers like her holding their children in Japan. She knew they were not her enemies. Vera became active in many peacemaking efforts over the years, including organizing a chapter of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Austin, where I met her. She co-founded Sustainable Options for Youth in 1997, and her gentle, perceptive, generous spirit attracted me and others to the group that continues in her memory.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Militarism is no future

On July 13, 2018, the US Army announced that Austin was chosen as the site for its proposed new Army Futures Command Center.  We believe this marks a step backward for Austin or for any community that would choose to use its human and physical resources to design more weapons and systems of war.   This is a misdirection of Austin's creative culture and technical expertise, and we stand by our objections to it. 
We will continue to promote Sustainable Options for Youth in our high schools and raise awareness about the human costs to each other and to our planet of unchecked militarism and war. 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Austin is a peace-loving city and should not be a weapons producer

Upon learning last Saturday from an article in the Austin American-Statesman that Austin is one of 5 cities being considered as the site of a proposed "Army Futures Command Center,"  I wrote a letter to the editor, which was published in today's edition, to express opposition to this.  I wrote also to our Austin City Council members and the following letter to members of the Economic Development staff at the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce:

Dear member of the Economic Development staff, Austin Chamber of Commerce,

I write to you as a concerned, longtime Austin resident in response to the article in the Austin American-Statesman on Saturday, June 16, “City 1 of 5 finalists for Army site.”  The article indicated that the Austin Chamber of Commerce supports the idea of having a proposed Army Futures Command Center placed in Austin.
Reading this article was the first I learned of the Army’s selection of Austin as a possible location for this center.   The article also indicated that the final city selection may be made by the end of this month.  This offers very little time for any community input.
I do not agree that Austin would be a suitable location for this Army site.  The primary purpose of the Army center, as described in the Statesman article, apparently would be to enhance the Army’s arsenal, “including improvement to its tactical missile system, combat vehicles and helicopters, defense teams and weapons.”  Is that really what we want in Austin?  The Army says it wants a “creative culture” in which to place its facility, but weapons are not creative, they are destructive.
I have worked along with many military veterans over the years and have witnessed what the weaponry and tactical systems of war kill in a person even when the person survives.  There is too much life-long trauma, too much physical and moral injury, too much suicide.  I’ve also witnessed the trauma borne by refugees who have fled US wars.   
Please, let’s use our high-tech, creative genius in Austin for what really enhances life: excellent health care, fine education, green energy development, efficient communications and transportation systems, good maintenance of our infrastructure and wise stewardship of our natural resources.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Discussing gun control at Austin HS

Hart, Tami, Susana and I were happy to be able to table a second time this year at Austin HS. As we waited at the entrance desk for our ID badges, we looked over copies of the school newspaper, "The Maroon" and were pleased to see several articles that related to the themes of our SOY table. For example, there was a great piece about the #MarchForOurLives, in which a number of Austin HS students had participated.  Austin HS students also were part of the #Nationalschoolwalkout on April 20.

excellent commentary piece by an Austin HS student in their paper, "The Maroon"

Our reflection question for today asked students if they felt gun control should also be made at the Pentagon level. 
We got some puzzled looks about our question. A few students said they weren't sure how to answer it. Most students are not aware of the extent of our military budget or that the US is the biggest arms dealer in the world, and we wanted to spur some thought about that. One of the student responses, pictured here, reflected what another student said as she put all her pennies into the Education jar during the Penny Poll: "If we had more education, all the other problems could be solved."

Some of the other written responses:  

"Yes, stay neutral.  Don't get involved with chemical warfare.  Mitigate arms race."

"Yes, not getting as involved in foreign affairs that really don't concern us."

"There are some booths that pay you money for your guns, then those guns could also be melted and turned into something cool or helpful."

"Stop Selling."

"I don't think that the weapons have a big problem, it's the people who use them wrong."

"Have the UN enforce gun sanctions."

"We can restrict sales to ally countries and only a certain amount per year."

Some students responded with measures they would support for individual gun owners, such as "stricter tests to pass before you can legally obtain and operate a gun," "gun regulation and stricter access to limit purchases," and "less loopholes." All these could also apply to ways that weapons of war are sold to other countries.  The US arms trade leads to black market sales that put US weapons into the hands of child soldiers and adversaries of the US.

Penny Poll results showed the Education category as top priority with 30% of the penny vote, Health Care with 24%, the Environment with 22%, the Military with 13%, Humanitarian Aid at 7% and 4% for NASA.

Thanks to all Maroons for your interest today!