Saturday, November 13, 2010

No Child Left Unrecruited in American Schools

Image courtesy of: Aaron Lee Fineman

Photo of military recruiter just outside the lunch room of a Georgia High School

People in Canada are surprised to learn that in the United States military recruiters are given unfettered access to youngsters at high school and increasingly at some middle schools. Schools receive funding from the federal government (No Child Left Behind Act), and in return they must allow military recruiters unlimited access to the schools, and send the names and addresses of all high school students to the Pentagon database kept on youths under 18, or they will lose funding.

American parents are not aware how aggressively their children are being pursued at school by these recruiters.

I was active at my son’s high school as a counter-recruiter. I talked to as many parents as I could, and have yet to find one parent who was aware of a form called a Military Opt Out. If a parent fills that form out, the recruiters are supposed to leave that child alone. Many parents are unaware of the form which is hidden deep in the Code of Student Conduct. This information is purposely suppressed from parents, so few parents ever complete and return a military opt out to the school. Many schools routinely ignore the military opt out form.

Military Recruiters in schools have several ways to cancel parental military opt out paperwork leaving the parent unaware this has occurred.

I have personal knowledge and/or experience of the following, but my son’s school is not the exception.

· Every October high schools sends the Pentagon (for release to military recruiters) all the information they have on the child, including the child’s personal cell-phone numbers, e-mail address, grade point averages, college intentions, height and weight information, schools attended, courses of study, social security numbers, and any other personal information.

· Military recruiters from all branches of the military will use the information received from school to contact the child behind the parent’s back, without parental knowledge or consent. The child is literally bombarded with mail, telephone calls, e-mails and the like from recruiters. It is useless to ask the recruiters to stop contacting your minor child – they will continue to contact your underage child regardless of your opinion. It is, somehow, creepy that a grown man/woman is stalking your child.

· Military recruiters are in the school cafeterias every day at lunchtime. They will smile benevolently and attempt to engage your child in friendly conversation. If your child speaks to them, this will cancel the military opt out form. When I told my son not to speak to recruiters he told me they looked friendly and they would smile at him. Of course they do!

· They will entice students with key fobs, drink holders, and other trinkets. Come and do some push-ups, or fun rock-climbs , and win a t-shirt. In order to get the trinket, you have to sign a form that cancels a parent’s Military Opt Out form. Once the military opt out form has been cancelled, the military recruiters can recruit the child without the parent’s knowledge or consent.

· They will take over classrooms, during instruction time to recruit. Take note of this part of the Army School Recruitment Handbook advice to recruiters; Section 5(8) “Deliver donuts and coffee for the faculty once a month. This will help in scheduling classroom presentations and advise teachers of the many Army opportunities”. Should Military Recruiters be using classroom instruction time to recruit, when the child is unable to leave because it’s class time?

· They will often ask the child not to tell the parents they have been talking to a recruiter.

· They will become friends with guidance counselors who then suggest a career in the military.

· The school will administer a test called the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). Parents will be told this is a career searching test that will help their child. Some schools make the ASVAB mandatory. It is a military recruitment tool only, designed to let recruiters know a child’s interests and academic strengths to help recruit that child. The ASVAB cancels a parent’s Military Opt Out form.

· Home schooled children are not exempt, the school board will still forward all personal details to the Pentagon.

Predatory military recruitment does not end once your child has graduated high school, but continues on University campuses as well. Section 10-6(b) suggests military recruiters aggressively target first year college students who may be unsure about their studies in an attempt to get the students to drop out of college and enlist in the military instead; “b. Generally, attrition during the first year of college is higher than in subsequent years, and occurs especially at the mid-term grading period, at the end of the first semester, and again at the end of the second semester. Students drop out during this time because they are homesick, have to work, are out of money, or are in academic difficulty.”
Here is a link to the Army School Recruiting Program Handbook, which is an interesting read.

One school board employee once told me “good luck with 3 boys, you will be fighting military recruiters for 8 years apiece, and they will just laugh at you when you try to get them to stop”. Both her sons were recruited, one from school and the other convinced to drop out of college. Both were recruited without her being aware this was going on. Each son just came home one day and had already enlisted. Both of her sons were, at the time of my conversation, in Iraq.

Most civilized countries do not recruit children, and it is a violation of the US’s pledge to the United Nations not to recruit children into the military. The U.S. claims that no one under age 17 is eligible for recruitment, but the Pentagon’s Joint Advertising Market Research & Studies Database (JAMRS) scoops up data on all High School students in the US, as young as 14. JAMRS has data on 30 million Americans between age 14 and 25 for recruitment purposes.

Now, the U.S. Military starts its recruitment campaign as soon as a student hits high school (as young as 14). If the child is too young to actually sign up, the following may happen;

(a) Military recruiters (Marines, Navy, Army, and Air Force recruiters) will gather information on that child, buddy up with them, (wow, your child will have a lot of friends), and start convincing them early that when they are older they should enlist. Enticing a child to join the military when they are older is still recruitment!

(b) Future Solders Training Program; Recruiters often sign 17 year olds into the inactive reserves under the Future Soldiers Training Program as a “trial” introduction into the military (while they earn their high school diploma). Not only to the recruiters fail to tell the youngster they can withdraw with no penalty, but they are often threatened with jail time for going “absent without leave” if they later fail to complete the enlistment procedure.

Here is what you need to know to protect your child at school
(1) Fill out a Military Opt Out form and hand deliver it to the school with a copy to the principal and the Superintendent of your local school board. If you are unsure where to find it, call your local school board and ask where it is. This “should” prevent the school from sending your child’s information to military recruiters, and “should” keep the military recruiters off his/her back at school. Note: You must do this as early in the year as possible to prevent your child’s personal information being sent to the Pentagon in (late September/early October), but even later in the year is better than not at all.

(2) Get the school to date stamp “received” or other proof of receipt when you hand it in at school. Keep a copy, with received date stamp, for your records.

(3) Don’t assume the school will honor the opt out. My son's school ignored our military opt out. Call the school and confirm that they have entered “military opt out” on your child’s school records database, and will remove your child from class should a recruiter take over class time.

(4) Find out your child’s school policy on the ASVAB and what date the test is given. Is the ASVAB test mandatory at your child's high school? If it is voluntary, what procedures are in place for students who are not taking it. Some schools give the test in the cafeteria outside of class and a student has a choice whether to take it or not. Empower your child, tell them if they ever see a test marked ASVAB or Armed Services Vocational Aptitute Test, they are to refuse to take it. If you believe the school will pressure your child to take this test, keep them home that day.

(5) The best protection is an informed child. Teach your child (a) not to talk to recruiters at school and your reasons why, (b) and not to take part in any activities for prizes, (c) never fill out any paperwork from a military recruiter, even if they pressure you to do so, and (d) refuse to take the ASVAB test.

(6) Children sometimes forget advice from a parent. I’s true! Ask your child periodically what recruitment activity they have seen at school and remind them throughout the school year not to have any contact with recruiters at school.

(7) IMPORTANT REMINDER: The home school department of the school board has your child’s records and information and may be required to send that information to JAMRS. Home school parents must send Military Opt Out to home school department of school board, with a copy to the Superintendent of Schools. Have the school board mark your copy “received” with the date and keep a copy for your records.

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