The Fairfax County School Board tentatively approved last night the establishment of the county's first ROTC program at Herndon High School this fall.

The unanimous action came on a resolution by Dranesville member Mary E. Collier to authorize the county's application to the Navy for a junior ROTC program, contingent on review of textbooks and assurance of local board control.

The contract will not be signed until May 26. The course would be elective in all four high school grades.

Capt. Martin S. Shuman, chief of naval education and training, urged the board to give the Navy some "indication that Fairfax County wants this unit; so far, it's all word of mouth." Shuman said that 20 to 30 other schools have already filed ROTC applications with the Navy, and that the May date might preclude a fall start.

The board's vote followed speeches by over two dozen citizens and organizational representatives, half in favor of the program and half against. Herndon Mayor Thomas D. Rust, Herndon High Principal Murriel Price and Langley High Principal Dr. James E. Manning were among proponents of the proposal. Manning told the board that "all 23 high school principals in Fairfax have expressed their support."

Most opponents were religiously oriented and raised moral questions about the propriety of a military presence within the schools. One speaker compared ROTC to the Hitler youth movement and another likened it to the Red Guard. Cornelia Suhler of the Virginia National Organization for Women called the armed services "both sexist and racist."