New York Times JROTC Series 2022

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In 2022 writers Mike BakerNicholas Bogel-Burroughs and produced a series of articles taking a critical look at the Junior Reserve Officers Training Program (JROTC) for the New York Times that explored the reality of the program in U.S. public schools nationally. Their articles were based on extensive research across many months and were comprised of interviews with JROTC member student cadets, their instructors, parents of the students, school officials, and community activists that have taken issue with the veracity of this program as a legitimate program inside civilian public schools. Below are the articles that came out of that research and series that appeared from the summer through the winter of 2022.

Thousands of Teens Are Being Pushed Into Military’s Junior R.O.T.C.

In high schools across the country, students are being placed in military classes without electing them on their own. “The only word I can think of is ‘indoctrination,’” one parent said.

A uniformed J.R.O.T.C. student stands in a sea of desks in a mostly empty classroom.


Dec. 11, 2022Updated Dec. 20, 2022 / Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ilana Marcus / New York Times - DETROIT — On her first day of high school, Andreya Thomas looked over her schedule and found that she was enrolled in a class with an unfamiliar name: J.R.O.T.C.

She and other freshmen at Pershing High School in Detroit soon learned that they had been placed into the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a program funded by the U.S. military designed to teach leadership skills, discipline and civic values — and open students’ eyes to the idea of a military career. In the class, students had to wear military uniforms and obey orders from an instructor who was often yelling, Ms. Thomas said, but when several of them pleaded to be allowed to drop the class, school administrators refused.

“They told us it was mandatory,” Ms. Thomas said.

J.R.O.T.C. programs, taught by military veterans at some 3,500 high schools across the country, are supposed to be elective, and the Pentagon has said that requiring students to take them goes against its guidelines. But The New York Times found that thousands of public school students were being funneled into the classes without ever having chosen them, either as an explicit requirement or by being automatically enrolled.

A review of J.R.O.T.C. enrollment data collected from more than 200 public records requests showed that dozens of schools have made the program mandatory or steered more than 75 percent of students in a single grade into the classes, including schools in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Mobile, Ala. A vast majority of the schools with those high enrollment numbers were attended by a large proportion of nonwhite students and those from low-income households, The Times found.

In Public Schools, the N.R.A. Gets a Boost From Junior R.O.T.C.

Instructors in military-sponsored J.R.O.T.C. classes have offered to promote the N.R.A. in high schools in exchange for money for their marksmanship programs.

A line of students and instructors, some of them in camouflage uniforms, stand near a series of marksmanship target cards.
The Junior R.O.T.C Florida State Marksmanship Championship in Cape Coral, Fla. this April. At a time when many schools are going to great lengths to keep guns out of schools, the J.R.O.T.C. program has become one of the few places on campuses that promote weapons training.Credit...Zack Wittman for The New York Times

Dec. 20, 2022 / Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and / New York Times - CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Beneath the fluorescent lights of a high school gym, dozens of teenagers took turns firing air rifles at a series of bull's-eye targets, part of a marksmanship competition that drew students from schools all along the Florida Gulf Coast.

The event was better outfitted than many high school competitions, with lights that illuminated the targets, scopes for spotting downrange and a heavy curtain to keep pellets from going astray, thanks to the help of a key sponsor: the charitable arm of the National Rifle Association.

“A lot of the equipment that you see behind me comes from N.R.A. grants,” Bryan Williams, a retired Army major who teaches in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Mariner High School in Cape Coral, told the contestants.

That tip of the hat was no casual remark. In order to win N.R.A. sponsorships, records show, military instructors who lead J.R.O.T.C. marksmanship teams at public high schools have repeatedly promised to promote the organization at competitions and in newsletters, post N.R.A. banners at their schools or add the N.R.A. logo to apparel worn by students.

In his pitch, Mr. Williams also offered to provide student testimonials to the organization “to include supporting photographs and storyboards showcasing the equipment and the happy cadets.”

J.R.O.T.C. Textbooks Offer an Alternative View of the World*

Descriptions of civic life and some key historical events differ from the way they are taught in typical public school textbooks.

An empty J.R.O.T.C. classroom showing several rows of unoccupied desks.
Credit...Zack Wittman for The New York Times

Dec. 11, 2022 / Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Dana Goldstein  / New York Times - One textbook for high school military cadets says girls should wear lipstick when in uniform. Another offers what a history professor described as a “frightening” interpretation of how the Vietnam War was lost. Another blames the death of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman who fatally shot himself in 1994, on heroin addiction.

A majority of public school textbooks receive extensive professional and government vetting, undergoing revision, rejection and public debate. But the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, in courses taught at thousands of high schools around the country, uses textbooks that have bypassed those standard public reviews.

The J.R.O.T.C. curriculum materials cover a wide range of subjects, with lessons on financial literacy and public speaking, on healthy eating and first aid, on preparing for college and life in the military. Most of them offer a presentation similar to what might be found in any public high school study materials.

But a New York Times review of thousands of pages of the program’s textbooks found that some of the books also included outdated gender messages, a conservative shading of political issues and accounts of historical events that falsify or downplay the failings of the U.S. government.

Here is a closer look at 10 issues covered in the texts:

Military Acknowledges More Sexual Abuse in J.R.O.T.C. Programs

Lawmakers criticized oversight by the military, which reported dozens of additional cases of abuse of high school students by J.R.O.T.C. instructors.

J.R.O.T.C. cadets marching in the Orlando Veterans Day parade in 2021
Nov. 16, 2022 / Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and / New York Times - WASHINGTON — The Pentagon received documented reports of at least 58 instances in the last five years in which high school military instructors who led Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps classes sexually abused or harassed students, military officials told a congressional subcommittee on Wednesday in response to criticism that they had failed to properly oversee the program.

Assistant secretaries from the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the Department of Defense, testified before a House national security subcommittee, whose members grilled them about procedures for vetting instructors and rooting out abuse in the program, known as J.R.O.T.C. Hundreds of thousands of high school students are enrolled in the program in 3,500 high schools across the country. One congresswoman has floated the idea of temporarily shutting the program down.

The hearing followed a New York Times investigation in July that found that 33 instructors had been criminally charged with sexual misconduct involving student victims over five years. The Pentagon’s higher number of substantiated allegations appeared to include additional instances in which the abuse or misconduct had not resulted in criminal charges. All 58 of those instructors had been decertified, the military officials reported, except for two who had killed themselves.

The military officials expressed their outrage at the abuse and said they had begun reviewing policies regarding J.R.O.T.C., which provides students with training in leadership, civic values, weapons handling and other skills.

Thomas A. Constable, the Defense Department’s acting assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, said the Pentagon expected to recommend a list of possible changes by the end of the year. He and the other military leaders said part of the problem was a lack of standardization across the branches in oversight, background investigations and coordination with school districts over how the programs are run.
Credit...Mary F. Calvert for The New York Times

Pentagon Admits Lack of Oversight to Stop Junior ROTC Sexual Abuse

dvids - JROTC Drill Video by Airman 1st Class Madison Champine  AFN PacificSept. 21, 2022 / Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Mike Baker / New York Times -  Pentagon officials acknowledged Wednesday that they had inadequately supervised the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps as dozens of military veterans who taught in U.S. high schools were accused of sexually abusing their students.

Speaking before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about military recruitment, the officials said they had begun discussing how to increase oversight of the program after a New York Times article detailed how instructors, who are retired military members, appeared to sexually abuse students at a higher rate than traditional teachers did.

“We completely agree that additional oversight is necessary,” said Stephanie Miller, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, adding that the military branches have been reviewing how to better supervise the program. “We also think that we need to take a hard look at our current background investigation process,” she said.

Responding to questions from Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a representative of the Air Force was explicit about the branch’s failures in overseeing its instructors.

Lawmakers to Investigate Sexual Abuse in Junior R.O.T.C. Programs

The House oversight committee wants the Pentagon to report on sexual misconduct in the high school programs and how it holds instructors accountable.

Lawmakers requested that the Department of Defense provide a briefing to the committee’s staff by the end of this month.
Credit...Mary F. Calvert for The New York Times

Aug. 15, 2022 / Mike Baker /  New York Times - Congressional investigators have opened a review of sexual misconduct in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program of the U.S. military in the wake of reports that dozens of teenage girls had been abused at the hands of their instructors.

In a letter sent on Monday to military leaders, including Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, the lawmakers said they were seeking information on how many misconduct reports had been received, how they had been investigated and how often the military inspected school J.R.O.T.C. programs.

They said that instructors in the J.R.O.T.C. program, which provides training in leadership, marksmanship and civic responsibility in about 3,500 high schools around the country, served as trusted representatives of the military in their local communities.

“Every incident of sexual abuse or harassment committed by a J.R.O.T.C. instructor is a betrayal of that trust,” wrote Representative Carolyn Maloney, the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Representative Stephen Lynch, who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on national security.

The New York Times reported last month that J.R.O.T.C. programs had repeatedly become a place where decorated veterans — retired as officers or noncommissioned officers — preyed on teenage students. The Times identified, over a five-year period, at least 33 J.R.O.T.C. instructors who had been criminally charged with sexual misconduct involving students, along with many others who were accused of misconduct but never charged.

Many victims said they had turned to J.R.O.T.C. in high school for stability in their lives or as a pathway to military service, only to find that instructors exploited their position to take advantage of the students.

Sexual Abuse of Teens in the Military’s J.R.O.T.C. Program

Former students say military veterans who led J.R.O.T.C. classes in U.S. high schools fashioned themselves as mentors, then used their power to manipulate and abuse.

July 9, 2022 / Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Ilana Marcus, Mary F. Calvert / New York Times - With the rifle skills she honed in the Mississippi backwoods, Victoria Bauer had a path to escape the trap of drugs and dead-end jobs she saw most everywhere around her. Her future was in the Marines, she decided, and she had an idea about how to get there.

Across the way from her freshman algebra class, Ms. Bauer approached Steve Hardin, the retired Navy intelligence officer who guided the high school’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a leadership program sponsored by the U.S. military at high schools across the country. He welcomed her into the fold, she said, and seemed interested in how her family, which traced roots back to the Four Winds Cherokee of Louisiana, had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Soon, her 45-year-old J.R.O.T.C. instructor was messaging her on Snapchat late into the night, telling her that it would “drive the guys crazy” if she wore a “small bikini” during the trip to their next out-of-state shooting competition. Then one night in 2015 as he drove her home from rifle practice, she told investigators, Mr. Hardin pushed his hand into her pants and penetrated her with his fingers — the start of what she said was months of sexual assaults. Ms. Bauer, who was 15 at the time, feared that resisting him would jeopardize her shot at advancement through the J.R.O.T.C. ranks or a military career.

“I gave all the body-language signals that I didn’t want it,” Ms. Bauer said in an interview. “I didn’t feel like I had a choice.”

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