Originally published September 25 2014
San Diego school district touts its new mine-resistant armored truck; how is this education?
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) They took years to develop and were expensive to deploy, but well worth it, because they protected hundreds of thousands of American men and women in uniform as they deployed to war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They are known as MRAPs -- Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles -- and their armored shell and sloped underbellies worked in tandem to deflect explosions and repel small arms, to keep military personnel safe.
Now, with the war in Iraq over since 2011 and most U.S. forces headed home from Afghanistan by the end of this year, thousands of these vehicles are headed back to the states; hundreds of surplus MRAPs have been given to local police departments under a controversial Pentagon program that transfers weapons of war to keepers of the peace.
But now, residents in San Diego, as well as some activist groups and board members, are questioning why on Earth the public school district would ever need this kind of armored vehicle.
The San Diego Unified School District -- the second-largest in the state of California -- has just acquired an MRAP, and at least one board trustee is raising alarms about it on social media.
Militarization of... schools?
Scott Barnett said he doesn't believe that the military-grade vehicle has any place in the school district, according to the U-T San Diego, and has suggested that it be leased out to other agencies in the area to raise funds to replace campus police cars that are getting old.
Barnett was also concerned that the MRAP was obtained without consultation with the school board or the general taxpaying public.
"The symbol of having an armored vehicle in the district is not the message we want to send to schools," he told the paper. "But we have it now. Can we leverage that vehicle to fund something we really need -- new patrol cars?"
The school district applied for a grant to obtain the heavily armored MRAP without cost under a U.S. Defense Department program called the 1033 Program that transfers excess and surplus military equipment to local police departments and public agencies. The paper further reported:
Gun mounts and any "offensive equipment" have been removed from the truck, which will be painted white -- possibly with an ambulance-style red cross -- and will be clearly marked as a San Diego Unified School District rescue vehicle in red lettering, according to the district.
While the district did not have to pay anything for the MRAP, it was not completely cost-free; the district spent almost $5,000 transporting it to San Diego, and officials say it will cost about $500 a year to maintain.
The 1033 Program has recently come under fire following the shooting death of an unarmed African American man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in August -- though some organizations like the ACLU have been tracking the transfer of military equipment to police departments for years.
The resulting protests by local residents and some out-of-town activists and agitators resulted in a militarized police response that caught the attention of the news media and the nation.
Since then, the Obama Administration has pledged to review the program, and the Pentagon itself has come under additional scrutiny as well. Indeed, the U-T reported that the San Diego school district may even have received the last MRAP under the 1033 Program.
'After Sandy Hook...'
Still, the chief of San Diego Unified's police force, Rueben Littlejohn, says he thinks the new vehicle can be used in a rescue situation and will be an asset to his officers who work daily to keep the school district safe.
"It's not the militarization of schools. The vehicle has been stripped of all offensive equipment and it's been repurposed for humanitarian purposes," he told the paper.
Littlejohn and backers of the MRAP envision a number of potential scenarios where it could come in handy: an active shooter situation, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis or floods, and other situations. The chief said that the vehicle can be driven to a classroom where it could evacuate some 40 children.
"After Sandy Hook there was a lot of conversation about what folks should do.... What do you do for that kind of situation?" he said. "My team took that very seriously and came up with some creative solutions, this being one of them."
For additional reading on the militarization of our police, see this from Natural News Editor-in-Chief Mike Adams, the Health Ranger: NaturalNews.com.
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