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Buffalo HS Promises An “Opt-In” Policy For JROTC, In Compliance With New York Law

The principal of Buffalo’s Hutchinson Technical HS (“Hutch Tech”) has promised that from now on, only students who “opt-in” will join the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). The actions follow an October 4th letter from the New York Civil Liberties Union challenging the practice at Hutch Tech of automatically enrolling students in JROTC without theirs or their parent’s consent, in violation of New York State law. Principal David Greco, in a letter to Buffalo’s Board of Education, affirms that all students now currently enrolled in the JROTC Program have volunteered to be in the program and their parents or guardians have given written consent.

“We are pleased that Hutch Tech has abandoned its coercive JROTC enrollment program and has now agreed to comply with the laws that require prior written consent,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU.

John Curr, the Interim Director of the Western Regional Office of the NYCLU, added that, “We will be monitoring compliance by Hutch Tech and other Buffalo area schools on this and other military issues in the schools. Military recruiting provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act have given military recruiters unprecedented access to students and to their contact information, but we want to ensure that schools respect students’ rights to ‘just say no’ to the military. Schools have an obligation to educate our children and must protect them from abusive and intimidating recruiting tactics.”

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 state’s Education Law, which provides that no child may be compelled to participate in JROTC and requires prior written parental consent.

Parents at Hutch Tech 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.

In his letter to Buffalo Board of Education members, Principal Greco affirmed that the procedure to “opt-in” also will be in place for subsequent years.

Click here for more on military recruitment and students’ rights.

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