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The San Diego Unified board is delaying its ban on marksmanship training, a controversial decision it made two weeks ago after a lengthy campaign by students and activists against school rifle ranges, one aspect of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program. The ranges will not be eliminated and the training will not cease until the end of this school year so that students can go to tournaments and competitions that were already planned before the ban.
“I want to make a very careful and considered decision,” said school board member John Lee Evans, who supported both the original ban and the delay. He added, “My only issue at this time is not to penalize the students.”
The volatile issue pitted students and activists who decried the rifle ranges as a symbol of gun violence against students and teachers who argued that the program instills discipline and focus and is unrelated to community violence. Both groups reappeared before the school board Tuesday night to argue for or against delaying the ban, which required rifle ranges and the program to be eliminated immediately.
“All the hard work and dedication that I put into this sport every day for three years doesn’t even matter anymore,” argued Elizabeth Avalos, a junior at the LEADS school-within-a-school on the San Diego High campus, where the rifle team won a gold medal in a statewide competition two years ago. She wanted to compete again this year.
Student activists who supported the ban called the delay a “slap in the face.”
“We are the students who walk these halls and what we want should matter,” said Ashlee Garrott, a senior at Mission Bay High School who asked the board to not delay the ban.
School board president Shelia Jackson introduced the motion, which was also backed by school board members Evans and Katherine Nakamura. It was opposed by Richard Barrera and John de Beck, who said that paring back the original ban was “waffling.”