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At the Request of Hirono and Colleagues, GAO to Review Oversight of JROTC Program Following Reports of Sexual Abuse and Misconduct

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, applauded the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for launching a review of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program. Following disturbing reports of sexual misconduct by instructors, Senator Hirono, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Robert Garcia (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) wrote to the GAO on May 2, requesting that the agency conduct a comprehensive review into the program’s oversight.

“The more than 500,000 students participating in JROTC programs across the country should be safe and protected in their programs,” said Senator Hirono. “Reports of abuse, mistreatment, and compulsory enrollment are deeply disturbing and demand further investigation. I am glad that the GAO will be conducting a comprehensive review into the JROTC program, so that students and their families can have faith in the JROTC program and its instructors. I will continue working to ensure JROTC students are safe in their programs and that anyone involved in misconduct is held accountable.”

In September, Senators Hirono, Warren, Gillibrand, and Blumenthal opened an investigation into the JROTC program’s failure to protect students from sexual misconduct. A New York Times investigation found that “dozens of schools have made the program mandatory or steered more than 75 percent of students in a single grade into the classes,” raising major questions about whether DoD and ED are conducting appropriate oversight of JROTC. These mandatory JROTC enrollments appear to be  disproportionately affecting communities of color and already vulnerable students from low-income backgrounds.

The same reporting also found that at least 33 JROTC instructors have been charged in criminal cases involving sexual misconduct. Their analysis of arrest information for three of the country’s largest high school districts found that “the J.R.O.T.C. program has recorded one arrest for every 232 instructor positions… 68 percent higher than the next highest case rate” of teacher-student sexual misconduct. Across the country, there are numerous cases of JROTC instructors who were criminally charged with sexual misconduct and had been the subject of complaints from students in the past.

Text of the GAO’s response is available here.

Earlier this year, Senator Hirono sent a letter to the DOD and ED amid reports of students being forced to join the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program. Last September, she joined the members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in opening an investigation into the JROTC program following disturbing reports of widespread patterns of sexual misconduct by instructors in the program. Senator Hirono also questioned a panel of DOD leaders about the New York Times article, asking whether the branches were aware of this problem in their respective JROTC programs and what they planned to do to address this misconduct.