Parents do have the right to “opt out” in writing from having their child’s information sent to military recruiters, and schools must notify parents they have the right to opt out. BUT: Parents often are not aware of this…
In late July, in a groundbreaking move, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a pair of amendments to a defense appropriations bill, amendments that would bar the military from using funding to maintain a recruiting presence in U.S. schools or on digital platforms such as Twitch. (Twitch is the world’s leading live streaming platform for gamers, often young boys or men.)
In a statement to The New York Times, Ocasio-Cortez explained that the amendments are intended to curb a trend of military recruiters targeting minority and low-income students: “Whether through recruitment stations in their lunchrooms, or now through e-sports teams, children in low-income communities are persistently targeted for enlistment,” she said.
A few days later, in a largely bipartisan vote, the House killed the amendment about Twitch, striking down the measure. “War is not a game,” Ocasio-Cortez said before the vote. “This amendment is specifically to block funding for recruitment practices on … these live streaming platforms largely populated by children well under the age of military recruitment rules.” (John Bowden, The Hill, July 27, 2020)
The second of AOC’s amendments represents the more substantive challenge to the Pentagon’s recruitment strategy. It would “limit the military’s ability to place recruiters in secondary schools or access students’ personal information from those schools.” (Jonah Walters, Portside.org, August 24, 2020) It has not yet faced a House vote.
Through the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act, Congress strengthened the military’s school recruitment mandate by tying collaboration with military recruiters to federal education funding. Federal law requires schools to release the names, addresses, and numbers of all high school students to military recruiters through the Every Student Succeeds Act. (National Center for Education Statistics (https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/stu_privacy/military.asp)
Military recruiters use these inroads to form relationships with impressionable youths, and it’s legal.[*]
Parents do have the right to “opt out” in writing from having their child’s information sent to military recruiters, and schools must notify parents they have the right to opt out. BUT: Parents often are not aware of this, and most schools do a terrible job of informing them. Parents and community members have organized for decades to try and limit recruiters’ access to students and to guide young people toward civilian jobs. Today, with AOC, we have a strong voice within Congress to counter the hysteria of U.S. militarization and war making (hopefully, not a solitary one).
Her example can help amplify the message of National Veterans for Peace, which has been an important contributor to counter-recruitment efforts. VFP has been raising public concerns about the militarizing effect that Pentagon recruitment efforts have on our youth (vfp.org) and culture. The Twin Cities chapter (vfpchapter27.org) has provided speakers and counselors to area schools. (firstname.lastname@example.org 612-821-9141)
Carol Masters is a long-time peace activist, WAMM member, and a writer and editor.
ACTIONS & INFO:
Obtain a “Back-to-School Kit for Counter Recruitment and School Demilitarization Organizing”. National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth: nnomy.org (also on Facebook)
Copy and paste Opt Out form for a “Dear Superintendent, School Board member, Principal, etc. letter”. World Beyond War: worldbeyondwar.org
Send an email to your state legislators and governor. Roots Action: tinyurl.com/y43n64dr
[*] “Access to High School Students and Information on Students by Military Recruiters,” U.S. Department of Education Q & A Policy Guidelines