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No-fly zones for military recruiters

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But at schools that have become flash points, it's one more challenge to leaders already feeling pressured by tight budgets and the academic demands spelled out in NCLB.

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In Seattle last spring, for instance, the Garfield High Parent Teacher Student Association adopted a resolution stating that public schools are not a place for military recruiters. No public schools have actually prohibited military recruiters, because they would risk losing federal aid, but the symbolic gesture gained national attention.

The Seattle Public Schools had already been considering clarifying its policies for all visiting recruiters, including the military, and it was frustrating to have antiwar activists try to impose their views on what should be a neutral policy, says district spokesman Peter Daniels.

The school board recently released proposed revisions for public comment and will vote on the policy at its next meeting Sept. 7. It spells out, for instance, that recruiting appointments cannot be made with students during class time. It also would let organizations that offer additional information about military service or that counsel alternatives to the military be on campus in the same location and at the same time as military recruiters.

"The school district is not taking any sort of political stand on the war, on the military, pro or con," Mr. Daniels says. "Our main goal is to make sure our kids are in class, getting a good education. Yes, kids need a plan for after high school, and the military is a legitimate option for them, as well as college and other things."

Student groups, on the other hand, have no obligation to be neutral. A chapter of Youth Against War and Racism caused a stir this winter when it set up a counter-recruiting display at Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minn. The local chapter of the American Legion reportedly threatened to withhold donations if the school allowed these activities to continue (the chapter could not be reached for comment). But after students mounted a national call-in campaign, administrators agreed to allow the students to continue setting up the tables.

"The recruiters showed much less interest in coming to the school after we started 'tabling' against them," says Andrew O'Brien, who's about to start his senior year at Kennedy. His group, which began with just a few students, ended up drawing more than 20 to weekly meetings. Andrew plans to continue manning counter-recruiting tables this year, which will give him more firsthand experience with the role of debate in a democracy.

"A few students are very outspoken about being against what we're doing.... Some kids started to protest the protesters' group," saying it was unpatriotic, he says.

A number of these opponents "just want to yell," he adds, "but some will talk to us. I like it when I can talk to someone who's against what I'm doing."

How to be removed from a recruiter's radar

Families interested in keeping teenagers' names off of contact lists for military recruiters need to take several steps.

While public schools must supply contact information of students to military recruiters, parents (or students 18 and older) have the right to request that personal information not be released under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Public schools should make an opt-out form available, and many schools set an opt-out deadline in September or October.

Many schools also administer the ASVAB, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Students are not required to participate, but if they do, their information is usually passed along to the military. Parents concerned about this can talk to school administrators, who have various options for restricting recruiters' access to data gathered through this test.

On another front, the Department of Defense maintains a national student database for the purpose of creating marketing campaigns. It compiles information about high school juniors and seniors and some college students from a variety of sources. Students 18 and older in those categories can opt out of this database themselves. If they are minors, parents can do it for them. To do so, send a typewritten request to:

Joint Advertising, Market Research and Studies, "Attention: Opt Out"
4040 North Fairfax Drive, Suite #200
Arlington, VA 22203-1613

Provide the student's full name, street address, city, state, zip code, telephone number, and date of birth. Do not send Social Security numbers.

Finally, keep in mind that information may also be gathered from young people who participate voluntarily in military-sponsored activities such as videogame contests.

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