The New York Civil Liberties Union today commended Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and the New York City Department of Education for issuing formal rules regulating military recruitment in the city’s public high schools. But while the new Chancellor’s Regulation is a significant step toward preventing military recruitment abuses in the schools, the DOE now must train principals on how to enforce it.

“We applaud the DOE for both acknowledging that unchecked military recruitment in our schools is a serious problem and for finally taking responsibility for what the recruiters do,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “If this new regulation is fully enforced, it will be a significant step toward protecting the privacy of our children. Without proper enforcement, however, it’s just a piece of paper.”

For six years the NYCLU, the Ya-Ya Network and other community advocates have been pressuring the DOE to adopt a Chancellor’s Regulation. This new regulation requires high school principals to:

  • Ensure that military recruiters do not get free run of the schools for recruitment purposes.
  • Ensure that class time is used only for instruction.
  • Distribute multilingual forms to all students and their parents by early October allowing them to withhold contact information from military recruiters. New students must receive the opt-out form in their orientation packets. Opt-out information also will be added to the Bill of Student Rights. Students will only have to opt-out once during their school careers, as opposed to at the beginning of each new school year.
  • Designate a staff “point person” on issues regarding military recruitment and notify students who it is.
  • Develop procedures in each school for regulating military recruiter access, ensuring that students understand their opt-out rights and receive opt-out forms.
  • Require schools that permit students to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Batter (ASVAB) to prohibit automatic disclosure of test results and student contact information. ASVAB is marketed as a career exploration test recruiters use that is funded and graded by the military. According to the Army’s School Recruiting Program Handbook, the main function of the test is to “provide the field recruiter with a source of leads of high school seniors and juniors qualified through the ASVAB for enlistments into the Active Army and Army Reserve …”

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 tied education dollars to military recruitment, granting the military wide access to public high schools and students’ personal information. As the United States military intensified its recruitment activities inside public high schools to meet wartime quotas, stories of aggressive recruitment targeting low-income communities of color became common and New York City became a top target.

In 2007, the NYCLU and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer with the Students or Soldiers? Coalition released a report documenting students’ experiences with recruiters in their schools. We Want You(th)! Confronting Unregulated Military Recruitment in New York City Public Schools surveyed 1,000 students at select city schools and found that the DOE was failing to protect students’ rights:

  • 21 percent of students reported the use of class time by military recruiters. Amongst 12th graders, a full 27 percent reported military recruiter use of class time.
  • 40 percent of students did not receive a military recruitment opt-out forms at the beginning of the academic year.
  • 18 percent of students did not believe anyone in their school could properly advise them of the risks and benefits of military enlistment. Additionally, 32 percent were unsure if such a person was available in their school.
  • 45 percent of students did not know to whom they should report military recruiter misconduct.

“Federal education dollars should not be connected to military recruitment, and the NYCLU will keep fighting until that ends. But after six years of parents, students and advocates sharing their horror stories and lobbying Tweed Hall, we finally have a solid framework for confronting aggressive military recruitment in New York City’s schools,” said Udi Ofer, NYCLU advocacy director. “What’s important now is that principals get the guidance and support they need to follow this regulation. We look forward to working with DOE to flesh out the details and provide principals clear direction about their obligations.”

The regulation is somewhat vague, Ofer said. For example, the requirement that principals develop a site plan for regulating recruitment activity on campus is very broad, providing little direction on items all plans should include. A similar requirement in the Seattle public school system contains specifics, such as requiring schools to outline where military recruiters can set up on campus, where they can leave information when not on campus, and who is responsible for scheduling and approving recruiter visits.

“While this regulation is a positive step, it’s not enough,” said Erica Braudy, NYCLU lead organizer. “The DOE must ensure that parents and students know about it and understand their rights. The department should also step up its efforts prevent aggressive military recruiting in the schools and ensure the military isn’t the only career option promoted for low-income youth.”

The NYCLU continues to push for additional safeguards missing from the new regulation:

  • Data collection and regular reporting of recruiter activity and the number of student opt-outs.
  • A clear and well-publicized grievance procedure for reporting recruiter abuse.
  • Training staff in each school to properly advise students about the risks and rewards of military service and discuss alternative career options.
  • Ensuring that military recruiters do not receive preferred treatment over college and employment recruiters.