Wilkes school system settles military counter-recruiting lawsuit
An anti-war activist and the Wilkes County school system have settled a lawsuit that said her First Amendment rights were violated because she wasn't allowed on campus to counter the message of military recruiters. WFAE's Greg Collard reports. Sally Ferrell sued in January after the local superintendent refused to let her on high school campuses to warn students about military service. North Carolina's ACLU took on her case. Legal director Katy Parker says they're thrilled with the settlement, which ends a four-year battle. "She has a First Amendment right to express her viewpoints. If they open it up to the military recruiters, they have to let opposing viewpoints in." And Ferrell's viewpoint was that students should read the fine print of before signing a military contract. Sometimes it went beyond that. For example, one brochure she wanted to pass out warns students they shouldn't enlist to escape problems, then adds that many people discover the military amplifies their problems. The settlement effectively shuts down general on-campus recruiting for all groups. Now, students must sign up to meet with recruiters a week in advance. Superintendent Stephen Laws says all groups will be limited to visits of two weeks per semester. "I don't know if she got what she wanted, but I know we got what we wanted. That was information would be delivered to students in a way that's meaningful to them and it doesn't create a negative atmosphere at our schools." Laws says the settlement does not mean visitors have the right to say what they want. The school board released a statement that says no recruiters will be allowed to use school campuses as a "forum to present political views to attack any other educational or occupational program, including specifically the opportunities provided by the United States Armed Forces." That statement is not included in the settlement agreement.