Saturday, November 13, 2010

My 14 year old child was approached by a Military Recruiter at school during art class

Navy recruiter, at my son’s previous high school (in the U.S.), giving a recruitment presentation in class during the Great American Teach In. Personal photo collection.

This is the actual recruiter who turned up in my son’s art class wearing full naval white service dress uniform, (a white tunic, white trousers, white shoes, complete with white hat, with all his gleaming medals). Very intimidating!

Last April our eldest boy, then 14, was in grade 9.

One day, without warning, a military recruiter for the Navy, in full military uniform, took over his grade 9 art class for the entire 50 minute period. The art teacher sat at the back of the class for the recruitment session. The military recruiter handed a military recruitment form to the class, and said that all students must fill it out immediately and hand it back to him. My son refused to fill out the form, and the recruiter told him it was mandatory. Another kid sitting next to my son said “Don’t fill out that form – it’s bad, they’ll never leave you alone.” Smart kid.

Meanwhile, recruiter is telling the class how wonderful the Navy is, and you get to travel to lots of different countries. “Does anyone here like fishing? I get a lot of chance to fish in some pretty amazing rivers in different countries and I caught some really big fish.” (Huh! I’m a tad confused with military and fishing, but I guess they can catch some whoppers on those big naval ships.)

Mr. Recruiter starts handing out key fobs, blue water bottles with NAVY on them, pens marked "US Military", and other trinkets to the children, and asking questions like “does anyone here know how to put out a fire? You can become a fireman, the navy has lots of interesting jobs”. He walked around the room to collect the recruitment forms, and my son had not filled his in, and the recruiter told him he had to fill it in, but my son still refused (empower your child to say no to military recruiters) and eventually Mr. Recruiter backed down.

I was flabbergasted the day my son came home from school and said, "Mom, you'll never guess what happened to me in art class today". I'm thinking some lesson on drawing, or other artistic endeavour. Then he showed me his military recruitment form, a NAVY water bottle, and a pen marked "U.S. Military" and told me a recruiter took over the art class and he won some prizes for answering the recruiter's questions. This is why you must always talk to your child throughout the school year, because he still participated for the prizes. My son told me the questions he answered were "how do you put out a fire" and general in nature. He did remember that I had told him not to answer anything personal and not fill out the form.

I was angry with the school, and I felt violated. I had done everything to protect my son from military recruiters. The school had a Military Opt Out form and had ignored it. I had advised other parents how to avoid recruiters.

I had to find out how this could have happened.

At the beginning of the school year I located and filled out a Military Opt Out form, handed it to the school and had it date stamped “received”, delivered a copy to the principal and superintendent of the local school board.

I called the school and was told that my son's school records stated "No military opt out on file, ok to release information to military". I was told that I had not handed in a military opt out form. I told them I had and my copy was date stamped received. The school then admitted that they had a form after all, but it was in my son’s file, and had never been entered into the database.

I went to see the principal, and told her what had happened, and she said “oh, oh”. Well, I’m probably the worst person this could have happened to, since I counter-recruit as much as I can. Now I'm concerned my son's information has already been sent to JAMRS.

A child is entitled to an education without being harrassed by military recruiters. In the U.S. this is a gargantuan task compounded by the local culture of the military being a "benevolent" organization fighting for "freedom" that pervades much of American patriotism.

I e-mailed the art teacher and asked why she was “allowing 14 year olds to be exposed to military recruitment during class time, when students are unable to walk out and leave”. My e-mail was not aggressive, I only asked her this one question. The art teacher e-mailed back that since I was so sensitive to classroom presentations, she was cancelling an artist who was going to visit the class soon. She then berated my son for the rest of the year. Several times in front of the class, she told my son that he was such a disappointment to her and a loser. As a result of this experience, my son hates anything to do with art.

This year I hand delivered another military opt out, and had to make several ‘phone calls and office visits before someone was finally able to confirm to me that the military opt out was actually on file. My son only spent 1 month at school before our move, but I was taking no chances. I didn’t trust the school.

Recently we went to a parent teacher open house at my son’s new high school in Guelph. The school confirmed that, currently, there is no military recruitment in Canadian schools. There is a career day, when the universities etc., set up booths in the cafeteria and students may visit them. The military is allowed a booth there should a student have questions about recruiting into the military. Apart from that, military recruiters are not wandering the halls, lurking in the cafeteria, nor are they trying to go behind parent’s backs to recruit their children

How refreshing!


  1. Yikes, this seems so foreign to me. It makes me glad we have a "don't call us, we'll call you (if we want to join the military...)" attitude here.
    I think I'd be scared to death if someone in uniform demanded I fill out a form. Good on your son for standing his ground against this "authority figure".

  2. It seemed just plain wrong to me. The school's attitude when I mentioned it was that I was being "unpatriotic". I don't think they realized I was a Canadian ;) I think the unpatriotic issue is used to keep dissenters in line.

    He was only 14 at the time, I'm very proud of him for standing his ground with that recruiter. As you say, he would appear very intimidating in full military dress uniform.

    One big reason for leaving the US was to get the boys somewhere safer. You really don't realize what goes on until you live somewhere. Funny enough, on the drive north (see Mom Don't Look Now" post December 28 2010) we were passed by a large truck with Marines on the side. It was a sign!!!!

    Overall the move to Canada has been an excellent one for the kids, they are really thriving here.