As if what’s commonly known about Judd Gregg’s No Child Left Behind wasn’t bad enough, did you know it also requires that local schools grant access to military recruiters and must give them names and addresses of high school students — or else?
Or else lose federal funding. Buried within NCLB is Section 9528, which was inserted when the Pentagon found that many public schools had privacy policies that restricted the release of student information.
Before NCLB, recruiters were on their own. Now thanks to Judd, if you have teenage children, you may expect not only military recruiters in classrooms, but calls to your kids at home from recruiters.
The recruiters use a remarkable array of lures. Such as claims of help with college financing, neglecting to let students know that two-thirds of recruits don’t get any college money, and that to qualify for college money, recruits would have to pay $100 a month for a year. And sometimes they forget to let kids know the enlistment contract is for eight years.
The recruiters show up on school grounds with exciting sales pitches, dazzling new equipment and impressive toys like Humvees. They use pull-up contests and other tough-stuff games. Along with key chains, T-shirts and CD holders, they sponsor NASCAR vehicles and offer free video games. Kids get to play with military toys. Teenage boys do tend to be drawn to such gimmicks.
Since I started researching this article, many parents have expressed their anger at the cunning lures their kids were subjected to without their knowledge, never mind consent. Business recruiters don’t get this kind of guaranteed access.
School administrators actually do have options that won’t cut off the federal dollars. For example, with school approval, parents have set up tables beside recruiters with posters of soldiers injured in Iraq and information about more realistic college financing options. They’ve handed out leaflets explaining the real costs, as compared to any promised benefits. Schools may limit the number of military visits per year. Recruiters can legally be prohibited from classrooms, and Humvees and other flashy stuff can be prohibited from school grounds.
The issue is not the war policy. As one parent who called herself “politically apathetic” in a recent New York Times article put it, “The point is not whether I support the troops. It’s about whether a well-organized propaganda machine should be targeted at children and embraced by the schools.”
A new group called “Leave My Child Alone” is on the ground in some 30 states. On its Web site it says, “Where children are concerned it’s time to make it a family decision, not a federal mandate, to release our home phone numbers and home addresses to military recruiters.” Is this not traditional family values?
In addition to working with parent groups, they’re also pushing the Student Privacy Protection Act of 2005, HR 551. The bill calls for directing “local educational agencies to release secondary school student information to military recruiters if the student’s parent provides written consent for the release.” This legislation replaces the difficult opt-out option with an opt-in choice.
People in New Hampshire like our tradition of “government stay out of my privacy.” It’s certainly New Hampshire tradition to leave our families alone. So let’s help our school administrators set reasonable constraints, as we watch how our delegation votes on HR 551.
Burt Cohen, a former state senator, now hosts a Portsmouth radio talk show.
This article appears in the June 24 2005 issue of New Hampshire Business Review