Law has sneaky provision

n Provision in federal No Child Left Behind Act ties federal aid to military recruitment The administration’s education bill went into effect last year. It is called the No Child Left Behind Act. That title has an ironic twist as we shall see—even here in Rockford. Hidden in this law is a provision tying school districts’ federal aid to assisting military recruitment. In other words, it mandates giving recruiters full access to students, or the money faucet is turned off. Not only is that an assault on student privacy, but it could potentially have life or death consequences for unwitting teen-agers. What does military recruiting have to do with education? Not a thing, but it does take away a community’s ability to make its own decision on how it will protect student privacy. Many school districts, which have for a long time withheld student information from businesses, organizations and special-interest groups, have had to reverse such policies. Many parents are unaware of this provision in the law. This backdoor recruiting approach depends on stealth. In many places, if parents know their children’s names will be given to the military, they may choose to opt out under a provision of the act. Rockford turns over the names and telephone numbers of high school seniors to the recruiters, according to Jim Jennings, communications director for District 205. Jennings said parents are notified of the practice by letter and can opt out of the program if they choose. He said in that case, their children’s names are removed from the lists given to recruiters. School districts’ practices across the country vary widely. The law gives them considerable leeway in how they inform parents and students. In Bennington, Vt., the school district sent home a letter with a check off form to opt out. One-sixth of the student body said “no thanks.” Familes got two choices in Fairport, N.Y., near Rochester. They could grant recruiters access or opt out. The end result was that out of 1,200 juniors and seniors, only 43 families were willing to participate. Some districts are remaining mum and allowing a tiny government newspaper ad to do whatever notifying is done. The sponsor of this brainstorm is Rep. David Vitter, R-La. Vitter objects to schools being able to deny access to recruiters. Vitter believes there is no good excuse for refusing the military access to students. That happened 19,228 times last year. Vitter told author David Goodman that stance “demonstrated an anti-military attitude that I thought was offensive.” Goodman said this law is not about recruiting or education. It is about stamping out political dissent and ending local control. It makes it more difficult for schools to place any restrictions on who may or may not have entre to student information. “I don’t want student directories sent to Verizon, either, just because they claim that all kids need a cell phone to be safe,” said Bruce Hunter, chief lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators. Goodman said recruiters aren’t going to go away just because we may want them to. The chief U.S. Army Recruiter for Vermont and northeastern New York state, Maj. Johannes Paraan, said: “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.” “The Bush administration claims it wants to leave no child behind,” Goodman said. “This stealth recruiter law makes it clear what they really had in mind.”

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