Parents Group Opposes Complicity of Schools in Military Recruitment: 2001’s No Child Left Behind Act Forces Release of Private Student Info

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158_susan_1(APN) ATLANTA Susan Keith noticed when her son, Martin, 16, a student at Decatur High School, received 8-10 mailings in the span of nine months from military recruiters. The mailings were full color glossy pieces promising free dog tags or sunglasses if he sent in a reply card.When she found out that Decatur High, along with every other high school in the state of Georgia and in the country, is required to give the names, telephone numbers and addresses of students to military recruiters or risk losing federal funds under the No Child Left Behind Act, she took action.She and about 25 parents and other concerned citizens gathered at Melton’s Ap and Tap, a local bar and restaurant, on June 1, 2005, to see what they can do about the invasion of privacy and the implications that these measures have, particularly during wartime.“I don?t want my son to be recruited, but I am more worried about kids who feel they don?t have options,” Keith said.Schools Not Adequately Informing ParentsKeith and the others at the meeting want to get the word out to parents that their children?s names are being given out and they have the ability to opt out. Their child?s name does not have to be on the list of names given to the military recruiters.

The schools are required to inform parents that they are giving out the children?s names, but there is no requirement on how they inform parents.

Keith said she found one line in Decatur High’s student handbook that states, “Your child’s name and information may given out to colleges, technical schools, and other sources.” But according to Keith the chance that parents will read the entire student handbook is probably slim to none. That any parent would suspect “other sources” could include military recruiters seems unreasonable.

Parents Fight Back

The passage of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) prompted some individuals in various parts of the country to notice the recruitment policy, and many have reacted strongly to try to make some changes.

In Bennington, Va., at Union High School, Principal Shea-Keneally let students know they have the ability to opt out of their records being given to recruiters and 200 students or one-sixth of the student body took this option.

Because the NCLB is 670 pages long, it is up to school administrators to inform parents in a clear way some of the intricacies of the law, Now three years since the act was passed these citizens of Decatur are trying to take action to raise awareness of the situation in the Atlanta-metro area.

The group?s objections to the recruiters included privacy issues, recruiters targeting disadvantaged youth, and the quotas set forth by the government on recruiters, which they say may give them incentives to use unethical tactics to lure in students.

Other Recruiting Tactics Questioned

The parents claim many of the promises the recruiters make are hyped up or even broken, including benefits that do not come into fruition.

The Army is not meeting its recruitment goals and has not met them for the last three months. The Marines have not met them since January.

As a result of this, some of the tactics are becoming over the top. On May 20, 2005 recruiters suspended activity for a day of reflection after widespread misconduct of recruiters.

One family in Ohio reported that their mentally ill son was signed up, despite rules banning such enlistments and records about his illness that were readily available.

In another case of misconduct, one recruiter was caught on tape advising David McSwane, 17, who lives outside Denver, how to create a fake diploma, and how to buy a product that purportedly can cleanse his system of illegal-drug residue.

A CBS affiliate in Houston, KHOU-TV, recently played a voice mail message from a local recruiter in which he threatened a young man with arrest if he does not appear at a nearby recruiting station.

A letter dated October 9, 2002, from US Secretary of Education Rod Paige and US Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld states, “Student directory information will be used specifically for armed services recruiting purposes and for informing young people of scholarship opportunities. For some of our students, this may be the best opportunity they have to get a college education.”

Most military marketing materials promise college tuition funding of up to 65,000 dollars a year. However only 15% of recruits receive a four year degree, and just 5% qualify for the amount of $65,000. In fact, statistics show that the average participant in the GI Bill actually receives less money that students who receive a Pell Grant and a Stafford Loan, and must pay a mandatory, nonrefundable 1200 dollars into the program to participate.

“The military puts out assessment tests, called ASVAB. They are targeted toward kids who don’t do well on the ACT or SAT. Those kids do well on these tests and then want to enlist,” activist Ingemar Smith said.

Smith recently downloaded a free computer game made and distributed by the Army called “America’s ARMY.” The game is a military strategy game involving skills such as sniping, Smith said. After one registers the game, it would send back how he did to the Army, via the internet.

“They then can use this information, along with their registration information, to recruit to the player?s specific skills,” Smith said. “The product tells you that it?s sending the information back but a lot of kids might not know what that means or entails.”

Some at the meeting likened the use of a game to draw in recruits to that of a kidnapper using candy to lure in children. Others were more concerned of the use of tax dollars on that kind of technology.

Launching the “Leave My Child Alone” Campaign

The group wants parents to know that their children?s names are being given to recruiters and that these recruiters may give information that is misleading or even unethical. They plan to start a “truth in recruiting” campaign, also being called “Leave My Child Alone,” where they will make sure all students and parents have “opt-out letters” to take their names off directories that are given to Army Recruitment.

These parents and concerned citizens of Decatur, Ga. plan to write their representatives and hope that others in the metro-Atlanta area and Georgia do the same.

 

Sarah Epting works in graphic design, is a member of Georgia for Democracy, and is an Atlanta Progressive News Staff Writer. She may be reached at sarah@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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