West JROTC attracts controversy with seatbelt message


This year the JROTC project involves checking seat belts with a raffle prize given to one student who is wearing his or her seat belt. But some attention towards the project may have gone toward the posters JROTC used to raise awareness.

One of the posters gaining attention is a poster of a beaver telling students to, “Buckle up damn it”.

“I’m not sure how the ‘damn it’ came out,” JROTC senior Taylor Scott said.

Before signs are put up at West they have to be approved by principal Kevin Rohlfs, 9-10 principal Larry Murry, or activities director Kevin Broderick. To mark that they were approved Rohlfs, Murry, or Broderick would initial them.

“If we didn’t do that there would be posters everywhere and teachers wouldn’t know whats approved or whats not approved and there could be something inappropriate and we wouldn’t know,” Broderick said.

The JROTC posters including the beaver poster were approved, just not by anyone in the office. JROTC teacher Ralph Tosti checked over the posters and then allowed the students to put them up. Before putting up the beaver poster he requested that the use of the word “damn” made sense in the context of the picture. “The dam was there, we said if your going to use the word ‘damn’ it then you have to draw a dam,” Tosti said.

Despite the fact that the dam was misspelled JROTC student and senior Brad Vanderhoof thinks the poster was not inappropriate.

“[The poster] was supposed to be with beavers and beaver dams, someone misinterpreted that,” Vanderhoof said.

JROTC senior Jimmy Wagner agrees with Vanderhoof in regards to students and staff misinterpreting the poster’s slogan. “Some people just have dirty minds,” Wagner said.

The posters were made in JROTC classes Jan 19 and put up Jan 20 after school. Initially 70 posters were made with three basic slogans used for them. Some of the slogans include “I used to ride without a seat belt until I took pavement to the face,” and “Buckle up stupid.” After the posters were made came the approval process by JROTC.

“There was somewhat of an approval process, there was a limited amount of profanity that you could use,”  Wagner said.

Along with the use of damn in the posters, posters in black and white and using stick figures and blunt language involving car accidents were approved. Tosti believes having posters that weren’t based on artistic ability would be better for their cause.

“Those are the ones that get read the most,” Tosti said.

After that office approval was supposed to come but it didn’t. According to Broderick, the office was also unaware of the posters put up by JROTC.

“Unfortunately somebody put something up that wasn’t appropriate and you just [have to] make sure you get that [poster] down as quickly as possible,” Broderick said.

A few days after the poster was put up, it was taken down. The sign in question was not taken down by JROTC or the administration.

“I don’t understand. You get guys and gals, they get right with the program, they know you are trying to do something good then you get one or two who say I’m just ripping this poster down,” Tosti said.

The JROTC seat belt program runs from Jan 19 through February 24. A prize of $50 will be given to a driver who has a least 80% of their passengers buckled up. Despite the criticism of the poster JROTC is still focused on their message for seat belt safety.

“We’re just hoping that the message gets across,” Tosti said.