NO Mandatory Community Service for Students!
Community service: What a wonderful opportunity for students! A chance for our younger citizens to learn responsibility, experience the satisfaction that comes with helping others and to acquire new skills.
Right? Well, that depends who you're talking to. Slip the word "mandatory" behind community service, as school districts in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and hundreds of others have done, and "opportunity" takes a new twist. Opportunity for who? For the students, or for the communities that can now capitalize on students' free labor? (Martin, pg. 13)
More than two decades ago, President Nixon ended the military draft. Now a new and more menacing form of enlistment is threatening our school systems. This enlistment I am speaking of is that we are forcing "community service" to be a requirement for high school graduation.
Compulsory service programs, already functioning in many communities, typically giving students four years to complete, say, 60 hours of labor. The students must not receive any payment. They can choose whether to serve the elderly, or the poor, or the disabled, so long as they serve others rather than themselves.
The penalty for dodging this new draft is simple: no diploma. In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, angry parents and students took the local school board to court, arguing that such a mandatory service program for high school students imposed the kind of "involuntary servitude" forbidden by the United States Constitution. (Bowden 1998)
But a U.S. Court of Appeals approved the Bethlehem program, holding that so long as school boards stop short of putting students in chains for disobeying and so long as the students have some alternative, even an "exceedingly bad" one — there is no involuntary servitude. (Bowden 1998)
As far back as 1943, the Supreme Court made it clear that boards of education may not dictate such fundamental moral choices. In a decision that prohibited a school board from forcing young Jehovah's Witnesses to salute the flag, the...