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From Draft NOtices, July-September 2016

Five Insights from FOIA Documents on Military Recruiting in Schools

—Seth Kershner

What’s the military footprint in your school district? How do you know? If we had access to hard data like the number of recruiter visits, wouldn’t it be easier to make the case for reform?

Over the past two or three years I have been filing Freedom of Information Act requests with the various recruiting services. I’ve received more than 2,000 pages of material so far, detailing the extent of school recruiting activities in all of New York state and Connecticut, as well as parts of California, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

In the hopes of beginning a broader conversation about using the FOIA to support counter-recruitment campaigns, in this article I outline the five things that Draft NOtices readers may find most compelling about the data.

It’s worse than we thought. The data tell an alarming story about unregulated military recruiter access to students. In many cases, Army recruiters alone were visiting a particular school every other day, or more than 90 times over the course of a 180-day school year. To take one example, Springfield Central High School in western Massachusetts hosted Army recruiters on 93 separate occasions during the 2012-13 school year. Fitchburg High School, in the eastern part of the state, was the leader in this category with more than 100 visits from Army recruiters.

Visits target JROTC students. Recruiters for all military branches appear to have a special interest in reaching JROTC cadets. At a number of schools, half of a recruiter’s time on campus was spent in front of JROTC students. Years after DoD Memorandum 50 had supposedly been rescinded, severing the link between JROTC and recruiting, it seems that JROTC units still maintain close relationships with local military recruiters.

School demographics are a handy, but not universal, predictor of militarization. Generally speaking, the data support the existence of a poverty draft in the U.S. However, there are a number of outliers. Take the example of East Lyme High School in Connecticut. In the 2012-13 school year, no school in the state had as many Army recruiter visits as East Lyme (81, by my count). Yet only 14 percent of the school’s student body qualified for free or reduced-price lunch -- far below the state average. So this should remind us that factors other than race and class can influence the military footprint at a given school. These may include a school’s proximity to a military installation or the presence of active duty or retired military in the school’s administration.

Military recruiters are cultivating recruits as young as 15. This falls into the category of: “We had a hunch, but now it’s nice to have the evidence.” The records of Air Force recruiter visits in Connecticut are most helpful, illustrating that “key[ing] in on hs sophomores” -- to quote from the files -- is a crucial part of that branch’s Recruiter After Next initiative.

Where school recruiter access polices are in place, recruiters respect them. The documents make clear that recruiters generally respect recruiter access policies. Written comments about a particular school visit sometimes note that a recruiter could not make their goal of doing a classroom presentation, for example, because the school did not allow it. Recruiters are encouraged not to anger school administrators by flouting their rules: “You’re on their turf,” warned one writer in the Army’s Recruiter Journal.

Summing up: restrictive school policies are an effective bulwark against recruiters who, if they had their way, would be present on nearly a daily basis in schools, targeting poorer students and cultivating prospects as young as 15. But the key is to get those policies established in the first place. History shows that when organizers are armed with data, it helps them win campaigns.

If anyone is interested in learning about using the FOIA to aid in demilitarization efforts, please contact me at sethkershner@hotmail.com.

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Side note: All recruiters are required to carefully document their school recruiting activities. In the case of the Army, this information must be added to USAREC Form 446, the simply named High School Folder. While the types of information logged in such forms appears to vary from service to service, all branches appear to track the date and time that a recruiter visited a school, the purpose of the visit, and some description of what the recruiter did while they were there (e.g., how many leads were generated).

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This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org/).

       

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