9th Grade Class Forced to Enlist in JROTC

High School enlists ninth grade to Military Training
Freshmen all put in JROTC
Welcome to high school. Now drop and give me 50.
By Gina Vasselli

The entire freshman class at Carvers Bay High School has been automatically enrolled in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, a military-sponsored program that trains high school students in military discipline and concepts. Principal Richard Neal, a Navy veteran, said the school's Marine Corps JROTC class is fulfilling the student's physical education requirement and is part of the school's Ninth Grade Academy.

But Charles Holloway, the parent of a freshman student at Carvers Bay, said he did not want his son in that program and when he asked that his son be taken out, his son was put in a class by himself.Holloway said he feels his son was being punished for not wanting to take part in that class.

Holloway said the JROTC class simply showed up on his son's schedule in place of gym class and he did not receive any information about the class or how to get his son out of it.

"What happened to our freedom of choice?" Holloway said. "I wanted nothing to do with anything related to the military."

According to the South Carolina Department of Education, high school students must take at least one credit of physical education in order to graduate. ROTC can also fill that requirement.

Neal said he initiated the program because studies show that students in leadership programs are more likely to stay in school and graduate. He said so far the program has had an "extremely high positive response," but "any parent who did not want their son or daughter [to participate] has the opportunity to participate in other elective classes."

Neal said letters and fliers about Ninth Grade Academy were sent to parents. The class is an elective and students had the option to select other programs as well, he said, but noted that the ninth grade class was "enrolled" in the program.

"We accepted all of the freshman class into our program," said Master Sgt. Joe Epps, one of the instructors of the ROTC program at Carvers Bay. "What used to be the PE element ... we have taken that over."

Georgetown County Superintendent Randy Dozier said freshmen are not required to take part in the JROTC class.

"We're not going to draft people into ROTC if they don't want to be in there," Dozier said. "They certainly can opt out."

Holloway said he is concerned that other parents do not know their child is in this program. He said that other students are "going to my son, saying 'how did you get out of it?'"

"No one else knows because no one else is in that second class with my son," he said. "This was not transparent."

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