I heard about this case when Ms. Wilkes was in the midst of the battle with the Wilkes County (North Carolina) School System and had at that time been told that she could not present her information on non-violence at the high schools in the same way that the military recruiters can. This had made the news; I was hearing of this on a national NPR broadcast while driving home from school. What she wanted was equal footing with the military recruiters, who have nearly unmitigated access to students. That seemed somewhat a fair request, to want access, I thought, during the interview, as long as those getting the access are background-checked. Now, let’s be honest and insert some caveats here: Ms. Wilkes and the NC Peace action will never have the same weight that the recruiters do because a)they do not have the “advantage” of being in military uniforms, which in an archetypal and almost primal way strikes fear and therefore garners respect and bending of will even from those of us who don’t agree with them ideologically and b)the recruiters come bearing gifts: most significantly the promise of financial future gifts, which serves to recruit disproportionately to lower-income students, a problem I won’t address here but is well-documented (go forth and Google).
The woman simply wanted to be able to express her own views, which were not entirely from left field: poll after poll was showing then (as they continue to show now) that most people were less than thrilled with our involvement in the war in which these recruits would find themselves should they enlist. She was the brave soul that had the initiative. Wilkes County, NC – they were unamused.
From the beginning of the situation until the final settlement on August 11, 2009, nearly four years passed and the ACLU of NC had to get involved as what we’re dealing with here is really an issue of free speech.
All of this to say, I was as proud as anyone to see NC turn blue on November 4, 2008. I am as hopeful as anyone in thinking that we are not in Mayberry anymore, Toto. But when it takes lawsuits and four years for someone to offer up the ability to formally give to students information about non-violence, I have to say, it makes me wonder.