Pentagon gets edge on student recruitment

Even though Section 9528 is buried deep within 670 pages of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLBA) its heading clearly explains its purpose, “Armed Forces Recruiter Access to Students and Student Recruiting Information.” While education advocates were concentrating on issues surrounding school funding, vouchers and over-testing, the clause was slipped through and became federal law with the rest of the NCLBA on Feb. 8, 2002.

Section 9528 mandates that upon government request all secondary schools receiving public funding must hand over their students’ names, addresses and telephone numbers to the Pentagon. In addition, these schools must also allow recruiters from the Armed Forces on their campuses.

While this new law was overlooked a year ago, its effects have become increasingly significant as the U.S. approaches war on Iraq and plans to occupy the nation into the next decade.

Many people are having trouble figuring out just how Section 9528 supports the objective of the NCLBA, “An Act to close the achievement gap with accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind.” Yet, the Pentagon seems to see itself as the “choice” for high schoolers.

While joining the military may be a viable option for some high school graduates, the Section 9528 clause gives an unfair advantage to military recruiters over colleges and employers. While a student or parent must give consent for information to be released to prospective colleges and employers, the process to get a student’s name dropped from a military recruitment list works conversely. Students and parents must take the time to write their school districts in order to stop the Pentagon from getting student names, addresses and numbers.

And that might not work. U.S. Army recruiter Major Johannes Paraan has reportedly stated that “The only thing that will get us to stop contacting the family is if they call their congressman. Or maybe if the kid died, we’ll take them off our list.” This callous comment shows the real concern the military has for this nation’s children.

The federal government requires schools to obtain parental consent before releasing any students’ information to a third party, yet at the same time orders that schools concede this same information to the Pentagon. Dissenting schools have been forced to go along, threatened with losing federal funding if they do not fully cooperate.

Student opposition to the mandate has been expressed as well. “I feel that our rights as well as our privacy are being invaded,” says Bradley Cannady, currently a sophomore at John Hope College Preparatory High School in Chicago. Bradley and high school students across America may now be funneled into considering military service years before they get one letter from potential colleges.

Many education advocates say the “No Child Left Behind” may sound good, but the federal government needs to give us more than catchy phrases and ultimately move its focus from building up the military to building on the potential of our nation’s youth.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org