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Principal bans 'anti-military,' 'anti-American' materials

Associated Press | February 3 2005

A Cookeville (Tenn.) High School administrator said Veterans for Peace and a Quaker group can't come back into his school with materials considered ''anti-American'' and ''anti-military.''

The groups plan to go before the Putnam County school board tomorrow with claims that they're being denied privileges afforded to other organizations, including military recruiters.

The war veterans, some who also belong to the Quaker group, were allowed into the school during a September fair for organizations. They set up a table with books about U.S. wars and offered photocopied fliers and pamphlets from both organizations about the war in Iraq and military careers and alternatives.

Quaker and veteran Hector Black said several students stopped by the table and asked questions, and a couple of teachers even thanked them for coming.

He said there wasn't any indication of a problem until later that evening, when he got a phone call from Principal Wayne Shank.

Shank told Black that some of the groups' materials may be proper for adults, but he thought they were inappropriate for the students.

''The information was brought to the attention of administrators because of the influence it may have had,'' said Shank, who restricted future visits by the groups. ''I felt, from a principal's viewpoint, that the students were being put into a position that they shouldn't.''

Black said Shank specified some quotes in the literature that he objected to, including one from a 1953 speech by President Eisenhower that said, ''Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed. Those who are cold and are not clothed.''

Another quote from an unknown author said, ''The Army that can defeat terrorism doesn't drive Humvees, or call in airstrikes. ... It undermines military dictatorship and military lobbyists. It subverts sweatshops and special interests.''

County School Director Michael Martin said, ''Parents found the materials to be anti-American, anti-military. That didn't come from us. That came from the parents who saw the materials when their kids brought it home.''

Shank said in a phone interview from Cookeville that he couldn't recall everything he found offensive. He said he received a complaint call from a parent a day after the event and made an administrative decision to ban their ''offensive materials.''

Shank said he didn't tell the groups that they couldn't come back into the school.

He required that all their materials get advance approval, a rule he said also applies to military recruiters.

The principal also said their literature could be shown only in a classroom setting that would allow an opportunity for a ''balanced'' presentation. Military recruiters and other groups don't face that restriction, the peace activists said.

Veteran Charlie Osburn said his group doesn't understand why military recruiters and others such as the Association of Christian Athletes are allowed into Cookeville High School without the same restrictions.

His group aims to inform students, he said.

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