Debra J. Saunders

Wonder why San Francisco has a reputation as the American left's most intolerant city?

Consider the fact that concerned San Francisco citizens are now gathering signatures for a ballot measure advising the school board to overturn a 2006 vote to shut down the 90-year-old Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps program.

You see, the San Francisco school board only recognizes the right to expression with which it agrees. Disagree, and the board will shut you down. If students suffer -- well, that's politics.

Quincy Yu is a leader in the effort to gather the 7,200 signatures needed to put the advisory measure on the ballot. Yu is a native San Franciscan and Stanford MBA whose son attends Lincoln High School. Her son is not a JROTC participant. He plays football. "The kids in JROTC are not exactly the football-player types or those who go in for student government," Yu explained. The beauty of the program is that it provides students the right structure to develop leadership and workplace skills.

When the board was preparing to vote to kill the program, Yu told me, "I thought, no way is the board going to do that." There were 1,600 students enrolled -- the number was whittled down to 1,200 today -- in a program supported by parents and educators, in part because it has provided strong role models for minority teens. When the board turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the many people who turned up at public meetings to save the program, Yu said, it "galvanized me."

Michael Bernick, an attorney who was the director of the state Employment Development Department under Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, told me last year, "This is a program that takes a wide variety of students, including a lot of students who don't have other structure and activities, and has very dramatic impact in terms of helping to build that structure, motivation and focus." Mayor Gavin Newsom has long considered the board's anti-JROTC vote to be a major mistake. He supports the ballot measure because, he explained, in this battle, change has to come from the bottom up.

If change can come: The plight of students who benefit from JROTC was less important to the school board than a chance to bash the military. And how are parents supposed to feel when they see the board putting politics before kids? "For those parents who can afford it, they're leaving," Yu noted.

And it doesn't help The Special City's reputation. The vote showed this is the town where free speech is a one-way street and elected officials crush dissent without hesitation. If Ess Eff voters don't muster the necessary signatures first to qualify this measure and then to pass it -- well, who can blame Fox TV's Bill O'Reilly for targeting the city for political-correctness-uber-alles?

Debra J. Saunders

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