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From Draft NOtices, May-June-July 2001

Military Escalates Assault on
Civilian Schools

  • Latest proposal would help the armed
    forces force their way into high schools.

— Rick Jahnkow

Apparently, the Pentagon and its supporters aren’t satisfied with only using extreme political pressure to accomplish a military invasion of civilian high schools. They would rather employ a more familiar method: force.

That’s the underlying meaning of an amendment attached by Representative David Vitter (R-Louisiana) to an education bill that was recently passed by the House of Representatives. The amendment states:

Any secondary school that receives Federal funds under this Act shall permit regular United States Armed Services recruitment activities on school grounds, in a manner reasonably accessible to all students of such school.

Though the language of this amendment, which passed by a vote of 366-57, is not very detailed, it is clearly intended to deny federal funds to any high school that refuses to give student lists and/or campus access to the military. In introducing his proposal, Rep. Vitter explained that "this amendment states that secondary educational institutions that receive Federal funding must allow the . . . Armed Forces . . . access to students in those educational institutions." Another legislator, John Shimkus (R-Illinois), put it more simply: "No recruiters; no money."

During the floor debate, Vitter repeated the ludicrous claim of the Pentagon that 2,000 schools nationally ban recruiters from school grounds. When such figures were thrown out to House committee members last year, no one present challenged them and no documentation was provided. It has also been claimed that 25% of all high schools refuse to provide student directory information to recruiters, yet when the military was trying to regain access to student lists a few years ago in San Diego, recruiters claimed that only two school districts west of the Mississippi wouldn’t release the lists.

Ironically, the overall bill to which this amendment was attached was intended to improve the welfare of disadvantaged children and has the compelling title of "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001." Clearly, the Pentagon has its own interpretation of what this means and feels a special duty to make sure that no children are left behind — as possible cannon fodder.

The Senate version of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 contains a less aggressively worded recruiter access amendment. It would require the Secretary of Education to establish a year-long campaign to educate local school personnel about another recruiter access law, signed by President Clinton last year, that is scheduled to go into effect in July 2002. That law would subject schools to political pressure from the Pentagon and civilian government officials if military recruiters are not given the same access to students and campuses that is granted to college and business recruiters. The law contains no other penalties and exempts schools where an official districtwide policy has been adopted to restrict military access. Apparently, some of the more militaristic members of Congress were not satisfied with this law and want something more coercive immediately.

During the second week of June, the Senate will be debating its version of the military recruiting amendment in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. A Senate vote on the overall act is not expected until later in the month. If the Senate passes an amendment that differs from the House version, a joint conference committee would normally decide which one would be submitted for a final vote by both houses. That choice could be strongly influenced by the chairs of the House and Senate education committees, and the Senate chair is about to be transferred from a Republican to liberal Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy.

ACTION NEEDED: Write to Senator Edward Kennedy (Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510) and urge him to oppose any amendments to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 that would penalize local school districts for restricting activities of military recruiters on their campuses.

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (

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