Protect child from pressure to enlist
August 19, 2009
It is time for school again, and parents and public high school
students have their annual one-and-only opportunity to express their
opinions on military recruitment.
The Code of Conduct form, which students will be bringing home during
the first days of school, gives parents the chance to check a box on
the first page of the form stating that they do not want military
recruiters to be given their child's name, home address, and phone
number. The form has been simplified, and now it is available to
parents in English, Spanish or Creole. To stop military recruiters
from contacting your child at home, it is only necessary to check one
box, the 5th of the 6 boxes on the form.
The right to deny military recruiters access to the student
information was given to parents and students by the Congress as part
of the No Child Left Behind law. It is an important right to
exercise, as it protects your child from pressure to enlist
prematurely, while they are still in high school, and it protects
your family's privacy from phone calls and home visits from military
recruiters for the school year. Few students or even parents
understand how a military contract works. The length of the first
term of active service is spelled out on the first page of the
contract, and you have to read the small print to learn that the
contract is for a minimum of eight years! We believe that high school
students are too young to make such a commitment.
Parents in Lee County have reason to feel good about our local
protections for youth in the schools. Last year the majority of
families in all the large academic high schools in Lee County opted
out. And two years ago the school district made a single policy on
military recruiting for all schools, one which allows recruiters
access to students at school only in the Career Counseling office,
and only when the student requests an appointment.
But increasingly, the Department of Defense seems to be giving up on
getting information about our children from the school system. To get
around the opt-out provision, they have invested millions of our
taxpayer dollars in a data collection system focused on youth, called
JAMRS (Joint Advertising Market Research & Studies), a Department of
Defense "data mining" organization.
The JAMRS database includes all the young people of America 16-24,
with all kinds of data (not just address and phone numbers, but also
their courses, grades, hobbies, sports, music preferences, church
attendance) for the use of military recruiters. There is no option to
opt-out on the JAMRS Web site.
Similarly, recruiters use social network Web sites, like Facebook and
MySpace, as a way to learn about and contact kids without supervision
from parents and counselors. Kids put all kinds of personal
information about themselves on their pages, and make it easy for
military recruiters to start conversations with them.
So by all means check the box on the Code of Conduct form, and
opt-out your kids. But you also need to be aware of other ways that
the military may try to recruit your children. Warn your kids not to
give their names and addresses to strangers, even if the stranger is
a military recruiter. There will be plenty of time for that after graduation.
Nancy Howell is co-chairwoman of the Wage Peace Project,
Environmental and Peace Education Center, Fort Myers.