By Wells, Leah C.
The Humanist , Vol. 63, No. 2
The No Child Left Behind Act, which went into effect in November 2002, has some surprising implications for high school students. Buried deep within the funding benefits is Section 9528 which grants the Pentagon access to directories with students names, addresses, and phone numbers so that they may be more easily contacted and recruited for military service. Prior to this provision, one-third of the nation's high schools refused recruiters' requests for students' names or access to campus because they believed it was inappropriate for educational institutions to promote military service.
This portion of the Department of Education's initiative to create better readers, testers, and homework-doers is a departure from the federally guaranteed privacy protections students have traditionally known. Until now, schools have been explicitly instructed to protect the integrity of students' information--even to guard students' private information from college recruiters. Students must consent to releasing their personal data when they take college entrance exams.
However, since September 11, 2001, educational institutions have slid down the slippery slope in doling out student information when solicited by the FBI and now the Pentagon. Only one university--Earlham in Richmond, Indiana--declined to release student data when approached after the terrorist attacks in the fall of 2001.
The No Child Left Behind Act paves the way for the military to have unimpeded access to underage students who are ripe for solicitation into the military. This blatant contradiction of prior federal law isn't only an invasion of students' privacy but an assault on their educational opportunities as well. Too many students are lulled by the siren songs of military service cooing promises of funding for higher education. Too many students have fallen between the cracks due to underfunded educational programs, underresourced schools, and underpaid teachers. Such students are penalized in their educational opportunities for the systemic failure to put our money where our priorities ought to be: in schools.
It is critical that students, schools, and school districts have accurate information regarding this No Child Left Behind Act in preparation for the forthcoming military solicitation. First, the Local Educational Agency (LEA), not individual schools, may grant dissemination of student information. When recruiters approach individual schools, the administration should refer them to the school district office where they are supposed to visit in the first place.
In some cases, the recruiters on site have coerced employees at individual schools to sign previously prepared documents stating that, in refusing to release student information, they are out of compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act and risk losing federal funding. All requests for student information should be referred to the school district's office and not left to the discretion of individual school employees. School boards, Parent-Teacher Organizations, and Student Council/ASB groups can mobilize to support the administrations which aren't willing to distribute private student information.
Second, students or their parents may opt themselves out of this recruitment campaign. …