Since last March, a local Quaker group has been banned from visiting a Northampton, Massachusetts high school to lobby students against joining the military. Now, both sides are talking to each other.
The controversy is over a proposed school policy at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School. Under the draft being considered by the school’s trustees, only colleges and employers would be permitted to visit the campus. The local American Friends Service Committee says the policy would effectively ban the group from coming to the school. Since last March, the AFSC has been banned from visiting Smith Vocational to lobby students against joining the military.
The American Civil Liberties Union weighed in on the issue, saying they have constitutional concerns. Bill Newman is the director of the Western Massachusetts ACLU. “By banning AFSC, [Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School] is putting its very heavy thumb on the scale in favor of military recruiters and is engaging in viewpoint discrimination,” says Newman.
A spokesperson for Smith Vocational denied an interview request, saying conversations with the A-F-S-C are ongoing. Jeff Napolitano, the group’s director, says he’s hopeful his members will be allowed to return to the school.
This story was written and reported by David Chang.