The New York Civil Liberties Union today announced its major campaign against unwanted, abusive and intrusive military recruitment tactics in schools.
The beginning of a new school year marks the opening of another season of military recruiting of high school students as the military exercises the authority it gained under little-known provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Such provision have been interpreted as a requirement that school authorities turn over student contact lists to the military and afford its recruiters unprecedented access to students in school.
"The military is setting its sights on vulnerable groups of young people as it tries to meet the demands for more soldiers to fight an increasingly unpopular war." said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU.
"We send our children to school for an education, not to become military targets. Unfortunately, little noticed provisions of No Child Left Behind have given the military unprecedented access to students in school and an aggressive military has turned some of our schools into a recruiting ground. The NYCLU seeks to ensure that they respect the privacy rights of the children and do not interfere with education."
As part of its campaign, the NYCLU will begin distributing a new pamphlet "No Student Left Unrecruited" outside high schools in New York City today. The pamphlet outlines student rights and provides a tear-off form that students can submit to their schools to remove their name from the recruiting lists sent to the military.
The NYCLU campaign also includes:
- a new NYCLU military recruiting Web site, http://milrec.nyclu.org, which contains student rights information, forms and legal analyses that will help students, parents and educators protect student privacy rights and report recruiting abuses;
- a confidential complaint center where students, parents and educators can report abusive recruiting tactics;
- plans to contact to every school superintendent in the state, urging them to replace ineffective parental "opt-out" procedures that leave virtually no child unrecruited, with an instant in-class student opt-out form that allows students to remove themselves from the military recruiting lists.
- FOIA requests to the military to obtain public disclosure of their policies and practices, including how students, parents and schools can complain and procedures for students removing their names from military recruitment lists.
Among the little-noticed provision of the No Child Left Behind Act, school districts must produce lists of their students on demand to military recruiters, or the schools risk losing federal funds. In addition, recruiters must be given the same access to schools as colleges or prospective employers.
In the past there have been complaints of intimidation, deception and harassment by military recruiters in person, by telephone and by e-mail. In some schools, military recruiters have made themselves a regular presence with weekly visits and extensive access to students. Special military marketing materials target students of color.
The NYCLU praised the NYC Department of Education for recently revising its procedures to better protect student privacy as schools comply with military requests for student lists. NYC is one of the first school districts in the nation to adopt a student opt-out scheme which permits students themselves to withhold their contact information from the military recruiters by filling out and recruiting a form in class. Among the other improvements, the NYC DOE has agreed to give students and their parents more time to exercise their opt-out. Students will have until mid-October to opt-out and will be able to have their names removed each year.
The NYCLU will be monitoring the new procedures to identify problems and remains deeply concerned that military recruiters have been given extraordinary access to students in some schools well beyond what is required by the law. In addition, the NYCLU will assist students and activist who engage in advocacy in the schools for alternatives to military service.