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In the midst of a heated battle over whether San Diego schools should have rifle ranges for a military-sponsored leadership program, an effort to freeze expenditures for the program fizzled last night.

San Diego Unified trustee John de Beck proposed to keep the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps funded at its current level, preventing future funding increases, and to halt the construction of new JROTC facilities. The program includes armories where students learn to shoot air rifles. JROTC is offered at 13 San Diego Unified high schools.

Students at Mission Bay High School claim they have been enrolled in the classes without their or their parents’ consent — a claim that principal Cheryl Seelos disputes. The issue drew at least 100 students, parents and teachers to a Tuesday’s school board meeting in protest. Some raised the issues of the Columbine school shooting and gun violence in southeast San Diego.

“We are in opposition to the shooting ranges, and the questionable ways students are being put into the program,” said Luis Villanueva, a former Mission Bay teacher of the year.

JROTC program manager Jan Janus defended the program Wednesday. Janus is responsible for checking parental consent forms that are required to enroll in JROTC. He said the opponents have yet to furnish names of students who were improperly enrolled in the program, and added that the program has a perfect safety record.

“It was OK in 1919. It was OK in 1929. All of a sudden, it’s a big deal,” Janus said, later adding, “When’s the last time a cadet went into a 7-Eleven and robbed it?”

No one seconded de Beck’s motion, which was the first time the San Diego Unified board had formally considered the issue. Mshinda Nyofu, one of the protest’s organizers, said the campaign would continue.

“What’s the enduring purpose of learning to shoot weapons?” he asked. “And what is it going to take to stop it?”

EMILY ALPERT

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