Saturday, September 08, 2007

Recruitment by Military in Schools Is Criticized

Published: September 7, 2007

Military recruiters are frequently given free reign in New York City public schools and allowed into classes in violation of the school system’s regulations, according to a report released yesterday by the Manhattan borough president and the New York Civil Liberties Union.

The report, based on surveys of nearly 1,000 students at 45 high schools citywide last spring, said the city’s Department of Education exercised almost no oversight over how much access recruiters had to students at high schools.

“There were recruiters who were in the classroom not to talk to students about reading, writing and arithmetic, but to talk to them about how to get a one-way ticket to Iraq and all the benefits you will accrue by that process,” Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, said at a news conference. “This is something that must be stopped. It’s outrageous, and it gives recruiters a captive audience.”

Nearly all the speakers at the news conference, including Mr. Stringer, said they were opposed to the war in Iraq.

Federal law and city regulations require military recruiters to be given the same kind of access to speak to students as college and trade school recruiters who typically turn up for annual career nights.

In a memorandum sent to principals in January, city school officials reminded them that military recruiters should not be “given unfettered access to students in classrooms, cafeterias, gyms or other areas of the school building.”

Margie Feinberg, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said the department was reviewing the report. “We’re not aware of any recruitment during school hours,” she said.

The report focused primarily on schools with large numbers of black, Latino and low-income students where Mr. Stringer and officials from the New York Civil Liberties Union said they believed the recruiting had been particularly aggressive. The authors conceded that the report was not a scientific study.

Adana Austin, a senior at Lafayette High School in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, who was quoted in the report, said in an interview yesterday that she had seen military recruiters in class a few times a month, but had never seen a college recruiter.

“They’re the ones talking to us about our futures,” she said of the military recruiters.

Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that the city needed to do more to regulate and monitor recruiters in the schools. She said schools should keep track of how often recruiters are allowed in and should make that information available to the public.

The Los Angeles and Seattle schools have each set up such a monitoring system, Ms. Lieberman said.

“If the Department of Education is so committed to evaluating everything at every turn, they have an obligation to protect our kids from military recruiters coming into our schools,” she said.

The federal education law also requires schools to submit student contact information to the military, though it also allows students to have their information withheld. Last year, just 25 percent of those city students surveyed remembered receiving such a form, according to the report.

In 2003, the first year of the federal requirement, roughly 54,000 of the city’s 300,000 students asked that their information be kept private. Ms. Feinberg said she could not provide any updated data because it is kept school by school and is not collated by the Education Department.

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