Military Recruiting 101

Why does the military have direct access to the private information of American high school students? Under the No Child Left Behind legislation, Sec 9528, education funding in America has been turned into a recruiting tool for our military! Buried in this legislation is a section that mandates student's private information be given directly to the military unless the student's parent or guardian opts their records out – meaning that a request letter from the parent or guardian must be submitted to the school to keep the student's records private.

This is essentially a permission slip to keep one's records private instead of a permission slip to authorize access to one's private records. Yes, the law really was intentionally written completely backwards! To make matters worse, no concerted effort is being made to inform students and parents that their personal information is being given out.

While a few organizations have talked about this law, more must be done to educate students and parents on how this issue directly affects them and their private records. I am proud to be working with Congressman McDermott of Washington State, Congressman Stark of California and Congresswoman Woolsey of California to try and build a greater national awareness of what this legislation does to students' right to privacy.

If the military is already given millions in tax-payer dollars for advertising, why does it need direct access to student's private information to aid recruiting? The answer is in a March 6, 2005 Reuters' News Service article that states:

"The regular Army is 6 percent behind its year-to-date recruiting target, the Reserve is 10 percent behind, and the Guard is 26 percent short."
Those numbers and the fact that the military is already stretched much too thin all over the world – especially in Iraq – means that recruiters are under ever-increasing pressure to convince young people to enlist. Recruitment has clearly been made more difficult, because American casualties now top 1,500 deaths and over 10,000 wounded and many students are well aware of the serious realities and potential consequences that accompany enlisting. Students have heard vets talk candidly about being sent into combat under-equipped and without proper training. They've seen vets deal with injuries that the military did not provide adequate treatment for because the injuries did not occur within the parameters of the military's definition of "combat." They know that more severely wounded soldiers will be coming back from Iraq while at the same time this administration closes veterans' hospitals.

To compensate for students' greater understanding of the risks associated with military service, recruiters have implemented more and more predatory practices to meet their required numbers. That is why this personal information is so valuable to these desperate recruiters trying to meet the demand of the current U.S. war machine. The Department of Education and the Department of Defense have even sent several school systems threatening letters demanding that they comply with No Child Left Behind and hand over this information or they will not receive their funding. However, the federal government cannot stop individual students and parents from opting out, because this option was written into the legislation.

We must make sure our schools comply with requests to keep an individual's information private while fighting for changes in the heinous legislation that allowed this invasion of privacy to happen in the first place. But it will take an enormous campaign and a huge amount of effort to educate people on how invasive this act is! Help keep our military a true volunteer force, our students safe, and their information private – spread the word in your community about what is happening to students' personal information!
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