ACLU of Florida Says Veterans for Peace to Be Granted Equal Access With Military Recruiters in Pinellas County Schools

Affiliate: ACLU of Florida
July 17, 2006 12:00 am

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LARGO, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida announced today that the Pinellas School District has agreed to allow Veterans for Peace the same access to students that military recruiters receive, for the purpose of presenting alternative career information.

“Our position is not whether students should or should not enlist in the military,” said Rebecca Harrison Steele, Director of the ACLU of Florida’s West Central Office. “Our concern is that students be presented with all of the pertinent information so that they can make informed decisions about their futures. We hope that all public schools in Florida will take notice of the Pinellas school board’s decision to allow their students to receive information on careers that do not involve enlistment in the military.”

Following intervention by the ACLU of Florida’s Pinellas County Chapter, the Pinellas Veterans for Peace (VFP) group will be permitted to offer printed material to Pinellas County public school students and answer questions about careers that don’t require military enlistment first.

Steele presented the Pinellas County School Board a letter on July 13 outlining the First Amendment grounds why the VFP should be granted equal access to present alternative career information.

“Federal law provides equal access for those wishing to provide alternative career information,” said Bruce Howie, Legal Panel Chair for the Pinellas Chapter of the ACLU of Florida. “In other words, once the school opened its doors to employers, the military and post-secondary educational institutions to provide career information, it cannot discriminate in who’s allowed access based on the content of the speech.”

VFP seeks to provide students with fact-based information about alternative careers that focus on serving society, other than careers in the military. Their intention is to provide alternate information, not to criticize the military as a career choice. Among the opportunities presented to students by Veterans for Peace are employment and careers in Americorps, the Peace Corps, international development, as well as domestic opportunities in forests, parks, education and health care.

The following is an excerpt from the ACLU of Florida’s Pinellas County Chapter to the school board:

The First Amendment prohibits the government, including the Pinellas County School District, from denying access to a speaker solely to suppress the point of view he or she expresses. When the schools open their doors to one type of speech, such as the career information presented by military recruiters, they cannot bar the doors to others who seek to present the same type of information – but from an alternative viewpoint that may not receive favor.

The entire letter to the school board can be read online at

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