Andrew Morgan was happy that the military had a presence in his high school.
Morgan attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, which was named one of the lowest-performing schools in New York City. But Morgan was the “commanding officer” of the Marine Reserves Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in the school, and, as he wrote to InsideSchools.com, “it gave me the motivation to excel in school and to work hard at everything I do.”
There are at least 60 such programs in high
schools throughout New York City. In some ways, these ROTC programs are the least controversial of the efforts by the military to recruit high school students in New York.
But critics have been complaining loudly about the direct presence of military recruiters in city high schools especially in poor neighborhoods.
“Recruiters are taking advantage of these students and making a lot of claims about the military that do not hold true,” charges Ari Rosmarin, coordinator of The New York Civil Liberties Project On
Military Recruitment and Students’ Rights. Its Web site says that parents, students and educators have been complaining that “recruiters are using heavy-handed tactics to harass students, violate students’ privacy rights, and target poor students and students of color.”
The federal education law
No Child Left Behind requires that military recruiters
be able to enter schools, participate in recruiting
fairs and in general have the same access to students
that college and trade school representatives do. Further, schools
are required to provide the military and colleges with students’
names, addresses, and telephone listings -- unless the
students’ parents request that this information be
If parents do not want their child’s
name given to the military they must complete an
What the critics charge is that the military recruiters are being given more access than other recruiters, and that few parents even know about the opt-out forms.
In response to such
concerns, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein has agreed to
review military recruiters’ access to high school
Military Recruiters’ Access to Students and
The military gets, keeps and distributes information
on students through the Joint
Advertising Market Research & Studies. Run by the
Department of Defense, this database is used to
distribute information about military services to
large audiences and helps collect data for recruiting
and retention efforts.
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit
against the Department of Defense in 2005 charging
that the program collects private student data such as
social security numbers, grade point averages and even
student interests for the purposes of recruitment
On January 9 the Department of Defense agreed to settle the lawsuit and announced it will make major changes to the information program. They will no longer collect social security numbers and will stop disseminating student information to law enforcement, intelligence and other agencies not related with military recruitment. The Department of Defense has also agreed to establish and clarify procedures by which students can block the military from entering information about them in the database
Leslie Kielson, of
United for Peace and Justice, said she would like the
Department of Education to ensure that military
recruiters are not granted more favorable treatment than other recruiters.
The group wants the schools to make more efforts to
ensure that parents know they do not have to make
their child’s information available and would like a
log to be kept to record the number of visits
recruiters make to individual schools.
“All of these things are within the power of the city
to adapt,” Kielson said. “The No Child Left Behind act
says recruiters deserve equal access but they are
really getting unlimited access, which means many
schools are not following the laws.”
Large cities like Los Angeles, Austin and Seattle have
already adopted policies concerning military
recruiters’ rights and limitations, Rosmarin said,
but New York City
has not created any guidelines.
“Schools are not supposed to be a feeder system for
the military. Schools should be able to protect their
students from being taken advantage of,” he said.
Student Information: Opt-Out or Opt-In?
In November, anti-war groups rallied at the New York
Department of Education headquarters to press the
school system to do more to let parents know about their opt-out option.
“We’ve heard over and over from the parents we have
talked to at parent-teacher conferences that they
didn’t know about the opt-out forms,” Kielson said.
“It should be the school’s responsibility to inform
parents about these options.”
In 2002, 18 percent of New York City’s 300,000 high
school students opted out according to a
the Policy Research Institute for the Region at Princeton University.
Kielson said she will push for an opt-in option when
No Child Left Behind comes up for reauthorization
later in the year. This would keep student information
private unless the parents authorize its release to
the military. She hopes the new Democratic majority in
the House of Representatives will support such a
“We will be reminding public officials that this
election was a clear message for peace,” Kielson said.
“There is support for us.”
Recruiters and the No Child Left Behind Act
Rosmarin said there is an overwhelming military
recruiter presence in schools like Christopher
Columbus, Harry Truman, Abraham Lincoln, George
Washington and Martin Luther King, which mostly serve
poor, lower-income students. Recruiters are on these
campuses at least every other day and become a
constant presence in the students’ lives, he said.
“In the recruiters’ manual there is a lot about school
ownership,” Rosmarin said. “They are encouraged to
befriend the administration, become coaches for sport
teams and organize after-school activities. We hear a
lot of instances where recruiters will go as far as
taking a student out and buying them lunch. We just
want to ensure students are given the right to pursue
an education without being harassed and hassled
Marge Feinberg, a spokesperson for the Department of
Education, said college recruiters and military
recruiters have the same access to public schools, and
neither is given special accommodations.
Emily Gockley, chief of public affairs for the New
York City Recruiting Battalion, said it is only fair
to allow the military equal access to students.
“Every school decides differently on how they deal
with recruiters,” Gockley said. “But if they invite
college recruiters they must also invite military
recruiters. We are also entitled to get the same
information they give out to colleges.”
Neither the school system nor the military could
provide statistics on how many recent high school
graduates in New York City join the military every
All-Volunteer Army: Added Perks, More Recruiting
Even if such programs were restricted, recruiters
would still contact students, says Tod Ensign,
Citizen-Soldier and author of “America’s Military
Today: The Challenge of Militarism.”
“It’s a good cause, but the military recruiting
techniques are far more sophisticated today,” Ensign
said. “I mean, they’ve got Fortune 500 quality
consultants calling the shots. They know how to go
after the kids that are most susceptible.”
Since the draft was eliminated in 1973 the military
has drastically changed its recruiting approach.
Ensign writes that Pentagon spending on recruiters and
advertisements has risen sharply over the last five
years, bringing the bill close to $3 billion a year.
The military must bring in about 200,000 new recruits
every year to replace soldiers leaving duty.
“Once you decide the military is going to be
all-volunteer, anything goes,” Ensign said.
“Recruiters are now using bonus systems and profilers
to help them out,” Ensign said. “And for being in such
an unpopular war, I’d say the military is doing a good
job of reeling in these kids.”
And some young people think the military is a good
option for them. Today, joining the military gives soldiers more perks
than in previous decades. The Army offers money for education,
health care, vacation time, family services and cash
allowances to cover the cost of living, according to
goarmy.com an Army Web site. Paying for a college education is also a big bonus for
prospective recruits. Depending on the soldier’s
enlistment period, the Army can help pay up to $72,900
in education expenses. The Army also offers classes to active duty
and reserve soldiers through online universities
and learning facilities in Army posts.
Corporal Curtis Harding, who enlisted
in the Marines after high school, said every person
should have the freedom to make their own choices.
“Parents should take a step back,” Harding said.
“Everyone always wants to tell you what to do, but in
the end it is really up to the individual to decide
about where they want to go in their own life. And in
the military the worst that can happen is that you
don’t like it, so at that point you can just leave.
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