WASHINGTON - A little-noticed provision in a new federal education law requires
high schools to provide names, addresses, and phone numbers of students to military
recruiters. Schools that refuse to comply face losing federal education funding
under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
Under the rule, part of the No Child Left Behind Act signed earlier this year,
Pentagon recruiters are entitled to students' contact information unless parents
opt out of sharing the data, a requirement that has alarmed civil libertarians
and school administrators.
it primarily on privacy grounds, that students or parents should be able to control
access to directory information, such as names, addresses, ages. That information
shouldn't be sent out to military recruiters unless parents want it sent out.
Anders, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union
''We don't wish to appear antimilitary. The military is a great first step
out of high school for a lot of kids, and it is a fine career for some people,''
said Bruce Hunter, a lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators.
Nevertheless, the association opposed the provision because it took discretion
away from local school boards. ''We weren't happy because we're a big local control
The law also requires high schools to allow military recruiters the same campus
access as administrators give to colleges and job recruiters. Some schools, including
those in San Francisco and Portland, Ore., had refused military recruiters access
to their campuses on the grounds that the Pentagon discriminated against gays
Education Secretary Rod Paige sent a letter last month to school administrators
explaining the new regulations. Department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said the rationale
for the rule was that the military ''felt this was needed to boost recruitment.''
Major Sandy Troeber, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said the rules were
''brought about by congressional support for military recruiting efforts.'' The
Selective Service already requires men in the United States to register for the
draft within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
But a fact sheet provided by the Pentagon said that the cost of recruiting
had doubled in the past decade and that ''access to students can significantly
reduce the costs of recruiting.''
The Pentagon had been trying for years to insert the recruitment provisions
into education legislation to counter what they saw as a lack of cooperation from
some high schools, according to lobbyists and congressional aides. But this year
the education bill was so loaded with other contentious issues, such as school
vouchers, funding matters, and testing standards, that lawmakers who might have
fought the new recruitment rules had their energies focused on other provisions.
''It wasn't on anybody's radar. It was buried so deep in the legislation,''
said Kathleen Lyons, spokeswoman for the National Education Association. The group
has only recently begun studying the issue and hasn't yet taken a position on
it, she said.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat of Massachusetts and a major negotiator
on the Leave No Child Behind Act, had fought successfully for several years to
keep the military recruitment rules out of education bills, but couldn't win the
battle this year, especially since bigger education issues were dominating the
debate, Hunter said. Senator Tim Hutchinson, Republican of Arkansas, engineered
the inclusion of the new language, said a Kennedy staffer.
''All this provision does is provide military recruiters with the same access
to directory information that colleges currently enjoy,'' Kennedy said in a statement.
Civil libertarians are concerned about the rule nonetheless.
''We opposed it primarily on privacy grounds, that students or parents should
be able to control access to directory information, such as names, addresses,
ages,'' said Christopher Anders, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties
Union. ''That information shouldn't be sent out to military recruiters unless
parents want it sent out.''
Under federal privacy laws, schools generally must have written permission
from parents or students to release any information about a student's education
record, according to the Education Department. Exceptions include handing records
over to a transfer school, to law enforcement in some cases, and to officials
who need the information in cases of health or safety emergencies.
Schools may release what is called ''directory information,'' such as names,
addresses, phone numbers, and date and place of birth, but they must also give
parents the option of refusing disclosure of their child's information. Schools
can decide on their own whether to provide the directory information to outside
individuals or organizations.
The difference under the new rule is that schools will not have the discretion
to refuse to provide such information to the military; they must provide the information
to recruiters and allow them on campus at the Pentagon's request.
Groups such as the American Friends Service Committee and the Central Committee
for Conscientious Objectors, an antimilitary draft organization, have been fielding
complaints about the new rules, but are not sure whether they can successfully
challenge them, especially in the environment created by the Sept. 11, 2001, terror
attacks. Analysts are looking at whether the rules violate existing privacy law,
said Oscar Castro, an AFSC official.
Jill Wynns, president of the San Francisco Board of Education, said the board's
attorneys are looking at the law to see whether the Bay Area school system can
keep any part of its current written policy, which prohibits military recruiters
from coming on campus and bars the release of any student information to military
recruiters ''or anyone who asks for it.''
''We are very upfront about being biased in favor of higher education. We're
telling our kids, `go to college, go to college,''' said Wynns, adding that schools
do not allow businesses to recruit on campuses, either. The military has not yet
asked for students' contact information, but recruiters have demanded and recently
been given access to San Francisco high schools for the first time in 12 years,
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