October 12, 2005 — Under pressure from the New York Civil Liberties Union, Hutchinson Central Technical High School ("Hutch Tech") in Buffalo, NY has agreed to allow one student to withdraw from the school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program.
Still, Hutch Tech has yet to provide assurance that it will release the other students who were enrolled in the program without parental consent. In letters to Hutch Tech Principal David Greco and the Buffalo Board of Education, the NYCLU has called for changes to bring the rest of the JROTC program into compliance with the law.
The NYCLU initially wrote to the school following complaints from parents of Hutch Tech students whose daughters, who had been "automatically" enrolled in JROTC, a military training program for high school students. The school's practice violates the State's Education Law, which provides that no child may be compelled to participate in JROTC and requires prior written parental consent before any child may be enrolled.
"Our legislature has made it quite clear that schools cannot push students into the JROTC military training program over their objections or by default. The schools must develop procedures that respect the rights of students," said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU.
Given the school's disregard for state education law regarding JROTC, the NYCLU also expressed concern regarding the school's compliance with other statutory limitations on military access to students and their contact information —- especially the provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which gives the military unprecedented access to students info also provides that students and parents may withhold their contact information from the military and must be given adequate time to do so.
The NYCLU has received information indicating that Hutch Tech students have not been given this option. In a follow-up letter to Greco, the NYCLU inquired as to whether the school was giving students the chance to opt out, reminding Principal Greco that the Family Compliance Office of the US Department of Education has concluded that "a school must honor a request by a student... not to disclose his or her name, address and telephone number to military recruiters."
Buffalo's school board will meet tonight at 5:30 p.m. in room 801 of Buffalo's City Hall. The session will be open to the public. Parent Bruce Beyer will speak on the subject of Hutch Tech's JROTC program, and the NYCLU's Western Regional Office will distribute informational leaflets outside.
Click here to read the NYCLU's letter to the Hutch Tech principal.
Click here to read the NYCLU's letter to the Buffalo school board.
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