Congress reviewing sexual misconduct allegations in Junior ROTC program
U.S. lawmakers have started a review into the military’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program following reports last month alleging that dozens of teenage girls were abused by their instructors.
In a letter sent on Monday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the service secretaries, the lawmakers asked for information on how the Pentagon conducts oversight of its JROTC programs to make sure leaders, instructors and administrators can’t abuse the cadets under their supervision.
“Every incident of abuse or harassment committed by a JROTC instructor against a cadet is completely unacceptable and represents an abject betrayal of the trust and faith these young men and women placed in the U.S. Military, its culture, and its values,” wrote House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y), and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the panel’s subcommittee on national security.
The New York Times last month released a sprawling investigative report that found dozens of retired service members who became leaders in JROTC programs targeted and sexually abused or harassed underage girls.
Over a five-year period, the Times found at least 33 such instructors who were criminally charged with sexual misconduct involving students, as well as numerous others who were accused of misconduct but never charged.
But the JROTC programs — which for more than a century have provided American students with leadership training in about 3,500 high schools nationwide — have little oversight and minimal training for their instructors.
What’s more, many states don’t require the instructors to have a college degree or teaching certificate, and schools are tasked with the burden of monitoring instructors and investigating complaints, according to the Times.
“While all JROTC instructors are required to complete a DOD [Department of Defense] background investigation and be certified by state or local education authorities, we remain concerned that DOD and the military services lack an effective means to monitor the actions of JROTC instructors and ensure the safety and well-being of cadets,” the lawmakers wrote. “Without sufficient oversight mechanisms in place, inappropriate behavior may continue undetected.”
The lawmakers also asked the Department of Defense to give the committee’s staff a briefing by the end of the month on how it conducts oversight of its JROTC programs and the instructors.
“Students enrolled in JROTC programs reasonably trust that their instructors will protect them and ensure their well-being as any military officer is duty bound to do for the soldiers under his or her command,” the lawmakers wrote. “Tragically, far too many JROTC instructors appear to be abusing that trust.”