A committee of the District school board has recommended the phasing out of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps programs for senior high school students in the city.
The recommendation to School Superintendent Vincent Reed comes at a time when a series of international crisies has absorbed the nation's attention and has prompted President Carter to call for the renewal of the military draft registration system.
More than 1,200 students are enrolled in ROTC programs at Cardozo, Calvin Coolidge, Spingarn, Dunbar, Woodson, Roosevelt, Phelps, Ballou and Eastern High Schools.
School board president R. Calvin Lockridge says he opposes the continuation of the junior ROTC programs because he has seen no evidence that they have helped young D.C. students attain a higher rank or better position in the military when they enlist after their graduation.
He also said he is concerned about the high proportion of minorities who are relegated to infantry divisions.
"I feel the military is very dependent on young black boys for cannon fodder," said board member Alaire Rieffel, a principal opponent of junior ROTC.
The ROTC programs, however, have been growing in popularity among D.C. students since 1974, according to school records. And Reed has told board members he favors continuing the military programs.
Reed's office conducted a study recently among 1,279 students, in response to board members' requests that he devise a plan for phasing out ROTC.
Forty-six percent of those queried -- most of whom were in ROTC programs -- said they saw "much value" to having a military program. The majority of students also said ROTC programs should be available in all schools.
"We're not in the recruiting business. If a student wants to enlist in the military, then fine," said Col. Raymond Smith, director of the schools' military science program. He said he does not keep statistics on how many students enlist in the service after graduation.
Students in the junior ROTC Navy program at Woodson High school -- one of the largest programs in the city with 178 cadets -- also defended the military programs.
"It's a nice program if you're thinking of going into the military," said Tim Jackson, 17, a Woodson junior who wants to join the Marines after his graduation. He says he learned about leadership and survival in his ROTC classes.
"We had a course in personal hygiene, we learned medical terms, like veneral disease, how to ration food, and how to tie knots (on wounds) in case of an emergency," he added.
Adrianne Warmick, 17, one of the female cadets, said she was attracted to junior ROTC because it provided a way of making new friends.She said her family cannot afford to send her to the university she wanted to attend, so she is enlisting in the Navy after graduation, where she will enroll in an electronics program.
James W. Curry, principal at Woodson, also praised the military program for helping students improve their self image, self-discipline, leadership qualities and "manhood."
The ROTC students spend one period a day in a military science class. They do some traditional military drills outdoors, but most of their time is spent in the classroom, according to Smith, where students learn, among other things, "to exercise pure leadership" and use other means than violence to influence others.
But Rieffel said that the programs "are not teaching children to think" and that some of the textbooks used offer "a weird view of history, especially the Vietnam War."
"They learn to do what I call primitive maneuver like keeping a low profile as they crawl over a hill, obey their superiors, and basically kill people. . . It's really quite offensive," Rieffel said.
Members of the Washington Peace Center, a Quaker organization which opposes the draft registration and ROTC programs, have criticized the textbooks used in military science courses for treating the Vietnam War scantily and for ignoring the "the human suffering involved."
Board members who oppose the ROTC programs say they hope their efforts will be helped by the current fiscal crisis in the schools. The school system allocated $107,248 for its ROTC programs in the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.
The Pentagon, which provides the textbooks for the courses, is supposed to chip in matching funds.
Some school members have even used the argument that the schools should not have ROTC programs on the grounds that the military refuses to enlist homosexuals and school system regulations prohibit any discrimination against a person because of sexual preference.
Lockridge said that he visited the military science class at Ballou High School and at least twice and found the class unsupervised. The students were "using the room for a recreational facility -- for dancing and smoking pot," he said.
Col. Raymond Smith, defended the junior ROTC programs. He said that students do get advanced ranks as a result of being in ROTC and that the programs have helped some students win full four-year ROTC scholarships to colleges and military schools.