Another hole has been ripped open in the barrier protecting U.S.
civilians from the influence of militarism. In December 2001,
the U.S. House and Senate gave final approval to an education
bill with a provision that severely erodes the right of local
schools to control military access to campuses and personal information
about students. The legislation, signed by President Bush on January
8, 2002, will go into effect soon as Public Law No: 107-110.
The military access law was part of a larger bill (H.R. 1) that
provides various funds for local schools and programs to improve
student performance. The bill also extends and changes programs
begun under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
Section 9528 of the new legislation states:
Each local educational agency receiving assistance under
this Act shall provide, on a request made by military recruiters
or an institution of higher education, access to secondary school
students names, addresses, and telephone listings.
It also directs that
each local educational agency receiving assistance under
this Act shall provide military recruiters the same access to
secondary school students as is provided generally to post-secondary
educational institutions or to prospective employers of those
Schools that fail to conform to these requirements will lose
substantial federal education funds.
Originally, the Senate version of the bill did not penalize schools
for placing restrictions on military recruiting. However, the
House version, which sought to coerce schools into cooperating
with the Pentagon, prevailed for the most part in joint conference
committee negotiations. Some believe the post-September 11 political
climate was responsible for this.
On the positive side, there is a stipulation that a secondary
school student or the parent of the student may request that the
students name, address, and telephone number not be released
without written consent, and public and private schools will be
required to notify parents of this option. This reinforces preexisting
law -- the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) --
that grants the right to opt out when student lists are released.
The Secretary of Education has until May 8 to notify all secondary
schools of the new recruiter access requirements. It is possible
that proposed regulations implementing the law will be published
in the Federal Register, with time provided for public
comment before final regulations are printed in the Federal
During all of this time, school districts that have restrictive
recruiting policies can consider various options for new policies.
One possible response from schools would be to make sure that
information about the right of students and parents to opt out
when student lists are being given to recruiters is presented
to them in a very prominent way and is translated into other languages
in large immigrant communities. Forms with check-off boxes could
also be issued to facilitate the process of opting out, and their
completion could be a required part of annual school registration.
Since schools will be required to give military recruiters the
same campus access that is offered to representatives of higher
education and prospective employers, schools could also make sure
that military recruiters get nothing more than what the other
entities are offered. For example, the military could be prohibited
from sending speakers to schools unless a forum has been established
for students to also hear alternative speakers. Or schools could
explore policies that would set standards for nondiscrimination
that would be applied equally to all outside campus and career
The different responses that will be possible to the new law
will depend not only on how the final regulations are worded,
but also on the politics in each community and the degree to which
schools are determined to maintain their civilian autonomy. The
Pentagon understands the key role that education plays in determining
the future political climate in the U.S. People with progressive
politics and values need to be equally aware of this role and
recognize the disastrous long-term consequences we will face if
the militarization of education is allowed to go any further.
a Growing Trend in Education
The latest effort by the military to force its way into young
peoples lives via the new high school access law is not
an isolated event. It is part of a steady progression in the militarization
of education in the U.S. that goes back almost two decades. It
began in the 1980s, when a law was passed to deny federal financial
aid to students who refused to register for a possible future
military draft. College campuses were required to act as agents
for the Selective Service System and assist with the implementation
and enforcement of the law. Then states began adopting their own
parallel laws to deny state-sponsored student aid and even college
admission, in some cases, to nonregistrants.
When college campuses began banning military recruiters and ROTC
because of the militarys discrimination against non-heterosexuals,
Congress retaliated. Laws were passed in the 1990s that cut off
federal funds to any college or university that did not drop its
opposition to ROTC and grant recruiters access to campuses and
student directory information. Such a degree of coercion was notable
in that it had not been used even during the 1960s, when campus
banning of recruiters and ROTC programs was much more widespread.
Parallel to its push into colleges, the military became more
assertive in establishing its presence in K-12 schools in the
1990s, including kicking off a massive expansion of military classroom
programs like JROTC. As this developed, and as the U.S. also became
more active in military intervention abroad, community opposition
to recruiting in high schools began to spread. Some secondary
school districts -- really a relatively small number nationwide
-- placed restrictions on recruiter access to students and campuses;
partly in response to counter-recruitment activity, but also sometimes
in response to incidents of extremely aggressive, inappropriate
As the propensity for young people to enlist began to diminish
in the 1990s, frustrated recruiters sought to blame schools for
their failure to meet their (probably unrealistic) enlistment
quotas. They went to Congress with unsubstantiated stories of
being banned from thousands of public high schools, which Congress
accepted without question. As a result, the same coercive approach
used against colleges will soon be used against high schools with
the recruiter access measure signed into law by President Bush
on January, 8, 2002. The only element missing this time is a requirement
that all high schools accept JROTC. But dont be surprised
if that becomes the next stage in the progression.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (www.comdsd.org).