In a letter to the principal of Hutchinson Central Technical High School ("Hutch Tech") in Buffalo New York, the New York Civil Liberties Union has called for an end to the illegal practice of "automatically" enrolling freshman students in the Junior Reserve Officer Trainings Corps (JROTC) without either theirs or their parents' permission.
The NYCLU wrote to the school following complaints from parents of Hutch Tech students, whose daughters had been "automatically" enrolled in JROTC, a military training program for high school students. The school's practice violates the Education Law, which provides that no child may be compelled to participate in JROTC and requires prior written parental consent.
"Compulsory JROTC is against the law," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. "The NYCLU has written to the school principal demanding he release all auto-enrolled students from the program and immediately terminate its compulsory enrollment policy. The induction of children into a military program is a serious matter and should not be forced on anyone."
Parents reported that they had two days before the school year began to submit "opt out" forms removing students from the program, but the forms were not widely circulated and many parents did not even know they existed. More importantly, a school may not legally enroll students in JROTC by default. Education Law Section 802(3) provides that participation must be "voluntary on the part of the student and written consent of a parent or guardian" must be submitted.
Wendy Van Scoeter, who daughter Jennifer Brown is a freshman at Hutchinson Technical and is being forced to participate in JROTC, asked the school to remove her daughter from the program on the first day of school, but an Assistant Principal told her that her daughter could not drop JROTC because the study halls were full. "This is causing Jennifer a lot of anxiety and depression," said Ms. Van Scoeter, "She wants to do something else besides be in this program. Every day when she comes home she tells me how many points they take off because of her hair or her earrings."
Bruce Beyer's daughter Elizabeth organized other students to opt out of JROTC before the school year began. "Isn't it amazing that, while you have to go out of your way to get your child into sex education, ROTC at Hutch Tech is mandatory?" Beyer said. "We are totally opposed to our fourteen-year-old's participation in a military training program, and so is she."
The NYCLU expects that Hutchinson Technical Principal David Greco will take prompt measures to bring the school into compliance with the law, removing Brown and all others unlawfully enrolled students from JROTC without further delay.