Greens Fight Recruiting in Schools

Two Green Party members of the Portland, Maine school board are sick of the military targeting students… and they’ve decided to do something about it:

Most parents of teenagers don’t realize that schools provide phone numbers and addresses to military recruiters until the calls and brochures arrive, two Portland School Committee members say.

“For the past two years, all a military recruiter has to do is call up a high school and say give us your list,” Stephen Spring said.

He and Ben Meiklejohn plan to greet students at the steps of Portland High School on the first day of classes, next week, to let them know how to block such recruitment strategies.

The school district last year gave families a chance to opt out of the contact program, but parents had to complete a special form. Spring believes that the notice generally was ignored in each student’s mountain of paperwork, as fewer than 2 percent of students opted out.

This year the option is printed on the district’s emergency notification card - an essential form for students.

“I would guess that probably close to 90 percent of the students and families will opt out, just by the nature of being aware of it,” said Spring, who chaired the subcommittee that suggested the change.

School districts nationwide are debating a little-known statute within the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Section 9528 requires schools to provide information about students to military recruiters, unless parents specifically opt out of the program. Districts that don’t comply risk a loss of federal funding.

Supporters say the rule simply guarantees recruiters the same access that colleges and private businesses enjoy. Opponents like Spring say it’s an invasion of privacy, and a stealthy way for the Pentagon to reach out to younger Americans.

Males have long been required to register with U.S. Selective Service by their 18th birthdays, and that information is shared with recruiters. Section 9528 opened greater access to all minors.

“As they are stepping up their recruitment efforts,” Spring said, “we are trying to find ways to protect our students.”

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