The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) reports, “The US Military is aggressively recruiting young people for military service.” “Recruiters,” the NYCLU states, “often target immigrants, students from poor families and people of color.” The targeting of teens in low income and minority communities is an acknowledged and accepted practice, according to a former military recruiter with whom I spoke.
The military often assigns recruiters to meet with students at local high schools. Schools must allow this, by federal law, if they permit job or college recruiters to meet with students.
High schools routinely provide the military the names, addresses, birthdates, and telephone numbers of their students. This, too, is required by law. However, students or their parents can choose to “opt-out,” preventing the school from providing this information. Additionally, schools must inform students and parents of this right to opt-out.
In a recent survey of several area school districts, we found that there was great variation in the manner in which the law was implemented. Some high schools, for example, permitted recruiters to visit often and to set up staffed “information tables” outside the school cafeteria. Other schools had more stringent policies that limited the frequency and extent of contact that recruiters could have with students. Some schools placed more of an emphasis than others upon informing students and parents of their right to opt-out. Students and parents might want to ask about their school’s policies on these matters. Students who wish to opt-out should be sure to check the school’s procedure and deadline for this.
There is so much violence in our society, and there are so many wars. One of my concerns is that we need to place far more emphasis upon teaching both the importance and the means of preventing violence, in our communities and globally as well. Teenagers are impressionable. I believe that we need to ensure that they do not learn in school that violence and war are to be taken for granted.
The NYCLU has prepared an outstanding guide, “No Student Left Unrecruited? Frequently Asked Questions About Military Recruitment and Students’ Rights.” This guide explains what the law requires, and provides quite a bit of very helpful information for students and parents. The text of the guide can be accessed in English here. It can be accessed in Spanish here. A PDF of the guide, with opt-out forms, can be downloaded in English here and in Spanish here. Print copies of these guides, as handy palm cards, can be ordered from local NYCLU offices.
The NYCLU website provides related information on alternatives to the military, the rights of student groups, a model school policy, and other info that may be of interest to students, parents, and others who are concerned about the militarization of youth. A listing of topics and links to these resources can be found here.
Readers might also be interested in visiting the website of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY). The NNOMY site provides a wealth of information about students’ rights, counter-recruitment, alternatives to the military, and related topics.
For further information about NNOMY and resources it provides, please see its entry in the Peace and Justice Online Directory of Resources.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), of course, is the national organization of which the NYCLU is an affiliate. For more information about the ACLU, and helpful links, check out its entry in the Directory or Resources.