ROCHESTER, N.Y. - A debate over who, and how, military recruiters can contact Rochester City School District students is heating up.
It comes after Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard and the district's legal counsel recognized that the school board's current policy was in violation of the No Child Left Behind law.
In 2005, the board enacted a policy that allows parents to choose whether the district can pass along contact information for their child to military recruiters. An "Opt In" sort of a policy.
But, the district now feels that policy violates the law and should reflect the policy of every other school district in Monroe County. That policy would mean that parents must specifically notify the district to prevent their contact information from being passed along to military recruiters.
At stake is tens of millions of dollars in Title I federal funding. Brizard said this was brought to the district's attention by some military recruiters who wondered why they were receiving significantly fewer names of potential recruits from the district.
"We have a dilemma; federal legislation and the board policy contradict each other," Brizard explained. "NCLB requires that children and families opt out of the system where the board policy requires them to opt in to the system."
Many Speakers at School Board Meeting
Thursday night, at a meeting of the RCSD Board, speaker after speaker--students, parents, and members of the community--all expressed their overwhelming opposition to an apparent change in the district's policy regarding military recruiters.
Crescenzo Scipione, a senior at the School of the Arts, addressed the school board Thursday night.
"I think what the superintendent and this board may be forgetting is that your first and foremost responsibility is not to a Marine recruiter, it is to the students of this city," Scipione said.
Another speaker, Mary Adams, an RCSD parent, said, "Military recruiters themselves are under tremendous pressure to increase their numbers and they themselves are pressed to use psychological manipulation, deceitful promises and non-stop pursuit of potential recruits."
Phil Davis, another parent of students in the district, said that he wonders how the military can dictate education policies.
"I much prefer the Army not calling them, and I would prefer that they keep the policy the same way and that they not encourage my son to become violent," he said.
Still, some parents don't share this point of view.
Patricia Schmidt said she has four children who've chosen a career in the military and she thinks more students need to at least consider that path.
"There are people that have good experiences and bad experiences with the military but it doesn't mean that they shouldn't have that choice to make," Schmidt said. "18-year-olds vote, and I'm sure their parents don't go into the voting booths with them."
The district sent a letter to parents last month that reflected the proposed change in policy. It explained how parents and legal guardians "are permitted to deny disclosure of this (contact) information" to colleges, employers, the military, or other organizations.
Late Thursday night, the board and superintendent agreed to look at the issue closer over the coming months and attempt to bring the district's policy into compliance with NCLB law.
A district spokesman said the superintendent maintains that must happen, while the district and community can commit to lobbying federal lawmakers for a change to the current law.
See video coverage here.