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Military Recruitment at Select New York City Public Schools Violates Students Rights, Report Finds

Military recruitment at select New York City public schools violates students rights, report finds
The New York Civil Liberties Union and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer today released a report urging the New York City Department of Education (DOE) to take immediate steps to protect students against aggressive military recruitment practices in public high schools.

We Want You(th)! Confronting unregulated military recruitment in New York City public schools -- report cover
Click here to download the report (PDF).
Palm Card: No Student Left Unrecruited? Military Recruitment and Students’ Rights (in English and Spanish)
New York City Student Testimonials
Juan Antigua
Adana Austin
Romy Chowdhury

The report, We Want You(th)!, concludes that DOE is failing to adequately safeguard students’ rights to privacy, and to properly manage military recruitment activities. Additionally, the report finds that DOE can and must do more to address the concerns of students, families and educators, including taking immediate steps to implement a citywide policy governing military recruitment in the New York City public school system.

In the spring of 2007, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office partnered with the NYCLU in conjunction with the Students or Soldiers? Coalition to survey nearly 1,000 students from 45 select schools where military recruitment activities were thought to be most prevalent. The non-scientific survey sought to document students’ experiences with military recruitment in public high schools citywide.

Among the report’s key findings are:

  • More than one in five respondents (21 percent) at selected schools reported the use of class time by military recruiters, a violation of DOE guidelines. Amongst 12th graders at selected schools, an even greater proportion—approximately one in four students (27 percent)—reported military recruiter use of class time.
  • In violation of DOE guidelines, two in five respondents (40 percent) at selected schools did not receive a military recruitment opt-out form at the beginning of the 2006-2007 academic year. Additionally, one in three respondents (33 percent) was unsure if their school provided them with an opt-out form at the start of the year.
  • Nearly one in five respondents (18 percent) at selected schools did not believe anyone in their school could properly advise them of the risks and benefits of military enlistment. Additionally, almost one in three surveyed students (32 percent) was unsure if such a person was available in their school.
  • Nearly half of respondents (45 percent) at selected schools reported that they did not know to whom they should report military recruiter misconduct.

The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 grants military recruiters wide access to public high schools and to students’ personal information. The NCLB law also requires schools to allow students and parents to withhold personal information from the military. The survey suggests that the DOE is failing to adequately inform students and parents of this right.

“Teachers, parents and students have complained of recruiters’ heavy-handed tactics, harassment and privacy violations — actions that are illegal, immoral and intolerable,” said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. “Perhaps the most disturbing issue raised by the students who responded to our survey is that in some schools class time — that is, time that is supposed to be spent on instruction — has instead been devoted to a military recruiter’s sales pitch. Our hope is that this report gives voice to the experiences of students across our city and emboldens DOE to take immediate steps to better protect student’s rights.”

Added NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, “The DOE has a responsibility to protect the privacy and wellbeing of our children, and it has abdicated that responsibility. The time is long past due for the DOE to ensure that all students know and can exercise their rights to opt-out of military databases, to ensure that not a minute of instruction time be spent with military recruiters, and to ensure that military recruiters are not given free run of schools to meet their war-time quotas.”

The NYCLU and Borough President Stringer, drawing on the recommendations of experts around the country, have proposed a set of recommendations to better regulate military recruitment in New York City’s public high schools. The report urges the DOE to take meaningful steps to address the problem by:

  • Providing a clear written explanation of students’ rights regarding in-school recruitment.
  • Distributing a multilingual form to students at the beginning of every year that allows students to opt out of the military’s database of personal student information. Ensure that schools provide additional, user-friendly ways—such as including an opt-out checkbox on mandatory emergency contact cards—for students and their parents to withhold personal information from the military.
  • Requiring all campus recruiters to sign in and out with school guidance offices when present on campus. Records, including recruiter affiliation and location on campus, should be collected by DOE and made publicly available.
  • Training school leadership on the rules and regulations of recruiter presence and activities in schools to monitor and enforce compliance. Institute a meaningful and well-publicized grievance procedure.
  • Enforcing strict limits on frequency of recruiter visits and on recruitment activity in schools, including limiting locations within schools and prohibiting recruiter use of instructional time.
  • Training staff in each school to properly advise students about the risks and rewards of military service and discuss alternative career options.
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