Fighting the Army

Activist Glenn Milner's quiet campaign to educate high school students about alternatives to the military yields astonishing results.

Glen Milner grew up, got married, moved to the suburbs, had three kids, and kept fighting for peace. A soft-spoken, clean-cut, earnest man, he does not look his 48 years. He fondly remembers ’68 and marching with the United Farm Workers in Mountlake Terrace to support Cesar Chavez’s lettuce boycott.

Unlike many of his compatriots, Milner kept going. Last year, he was one of eight protesters arrested outside the Bangor nuclear submarine base on the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. A Kitsap County jury found the protesters not guilty on the basis of international law. This year, Milner’s wife, Carol, was arrested at Bangor on Nagasaki Day.

Milner is also a parent in the Shoreline School District and the instigator of a lonely campaign that has yielded astonishing results. His insistent four-year campaign to allow peace groups the same access that military recruiters have to the minds and hearts of high school students has been a pain in the ass for administrators and school board members. It also uncovered a nasty sexual harassment scandal. And this year, thanks to the persistence of one parent, the US Army won’t be recruiting in Shoreline schools. “I never intended to get the Army thrown out,” says Milner. “It was their behavior that did it.”

For Milner, the story begins in 1995, when his oldest son, Aaron, took him to a career day event flooded with military literature. It turned out armed forces recruiters literally had free run of Shoreline schools, according to Milner, hanging out before and after school, in the lunch room, setting up tables in halls, approaching students in gyms and weight rooms. Milner wanted counter-recruitment literature to be made available alongside the military videos and brochures in the career center; the counselors offered to keep the fliers on file, Milner says, in case enlisting youth suddenly decided to ask for peace literature also.

“What developed was a pattern of stalling,” says Milner. “The first year was down the tubes . . . the next year, the same thing.” It was Milner’s first experience with lobbying school officials and with school board meetings. By June 1997, when Aaron was nominated for the “US Army Reserve National Scholar Athlete Award,” Milner and others decided to start an annual Peace Scholarship, which has continued.

By the time his second child, Alisa, was attending Shorecrest High in 1997, Milner had, with the help of Seattle Draft and Military Counseling Center, gotten on the school board’s agenda—to little avail.

But Milner’s efforts had caught the attention of a reporter at the Shoreline Week, who in April 1998 noticed an otherwise unremarkable report in the local sheriff’s log of a complaint filed by a Shorecrest student against Army recruiter Rodney White. The student accused White of a pattern of sexual harassment over a period of months in fall 1997 through January 1998. A second case, involving a different student and a different recruiter, also turned up under Freedom of Information Act documents requested by Milner.

Suddenly Glen Milner was the local expert on the problem of sexual harassment by recruiters for the armed forces. Milner’s crusade suddenly had allies. At one school board meeting, “The parents started getting up at the mike and going on about what the recruiters had done to their kids. The school board was getting hammered on this issue,” Milner recalls. Shorecrest’s principal, Susan Derse—who had already restricted recruiter access on campus in response to Milner in 1997—vowed that if it happened again, the Army would be thrown off campus.

An Army court martial of White in March 1999 exonerated him. Milner is bitterly critical of the trial, claiming that White’s defense was to attack the credibility of the girl. Milner also says the trial was conducted without the victim or her family present. The victim’s mother, Paula Danielson, supports Milner’s view of the trial, saying the Army “gave us a snow job.” Nonetheless, the Army had seemed to put its sexual harassment problems behind it.

But this past summer, a third case surfaced. On May 26, a 16-year-old student at Shorecrest High School was walking to school when she was offered a ride by a recruiter. Before she got out at the school, the recruiter suggested he take her back to her house to look at Army brochures. There he allegedly asked the student to have sex with him.

Principal Derse kept her word. The Shoreline School Board voted in the fall to ban the US Army from its two high school campuses for the next year. After four years, these unintended consequences of Milner’s persistence in criticizing recruiters made local headlines. Ironically, Milner didn’t want the ban: “I believe in free speech for them, too.”

And he still doesn’t have his pledge of equal access for counter-recruitment materials. Milner believes, ultimately, that showing both sides of the story will convince young people to choose peace. “The Army is just the antithesis of what we want our kids to learn and be like.”

But there’s still time to win that battle—his youngest child enters Shorecrest next year. Says Milner, “If you want to have change in the public schools, you’ve gotta have three evenly spaced kids.”