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Recruiter troubles group, parents

A Marine recruiter allowed to speak to a high school band class raised a flag of concern with a number of citizens and parents. The group urged the South Whidbey Board of Education Monday night to adopt a policy regarding future military recruitment activities at the high school. What prompted 20 to 25 people to attend Monday’s meeting was an incident on May 11, when a Marine recruiter spent the entire wind ensemble class talking to students about joining the Marines to play in the band.

The incident has troubled some parents and members of the Whidbey Peace and Reconciliation Network who believe military recruiters should be restricted to a specific area, such as the career center or to set aside specific days when representatives from businesses and universities are also on campus meeting with students.

Susan Cyr, a member of the network and band parent, read a prepared statement urging the board to develop a policy regarding the presence of military recruiters at the high school.

“Schools should be a place where learning is maximized in a safe neutral environment. The group believes recruiters in the high school are not part of the education process and their frequent presence makes some students feel uncomfortable and unsafe,” she said.

Cyr read on the group does not want to focus solely on this one instance, but on the bigger picture regarding the presence of military in our public schools.

School districts across the country are addressing this issue. Cyr sited a resolution passed recently by Seattle’s Garfield High School PTSA stating that recruiters should not recruit in public schools.

The Whidbey Peace and Reconciliation Network is an organization that provides information to young people and parents on their on alternatives to the military, including becoming a conscientious objector. Representatives of that group have met with students at the high school during lunch break.

Superintendent Bob Brown said he is deeply concern about the issue.

“I assure all of you that principal Mike Johnson and I will address this issue. We hear you. Thank you for the information on a national issues that needs attention,” he said.

Brown said administrators would be coming back to the group with a procedure that will work for everyone. He said the incident was a misunderstanding of the rules governing the presence of military recruiters at the high school.

John Thompson, a Navy retiree spoke in favor of allowing recruiters in high schools. Thompson told the board the only way recruiters will find military band members is to talk to students who play musical instruments. With numbers in the military declining, Thompson questioned how the military could replace retirees without actively recruiting new personnel.

Thompson said university recruiters would not generate the same discussion.

The military is a viable option for some, He said he learned a trade that provides for his family Thompson said he hopes that students will continue to have access to military recruiters.

Band parent Fraser Mann disagreed.

“The government should not be allowed to pressure our students to enlist,” he said.

Federal mandates

High schools must turn over to military recruiters the names and contact information of all enrolled students. But this provision also allows parents to tell the district not to give out that information.

Buried deep in the No Child Left Behind Act, districts that receive NCLB assistance are required to share student information such as names and addresses of students with military recruiters. NCLB requires school districts to provide military recruiters the “same access to secondary school students as is provided generally to post-secondary education institutions or prospective employers.” Failure to do so can result in the loss of federal funds.

Another component of the NCLB is And it requires districts to notify parents and students of the opt-out provision.

South Whidbey high school administrators notified parents of juniors and seniors of the opt out option in the Falcon newsletter last fall.

We provide “Directory Information” (gender, name, grade, home address,

home phone number) of 11th- and -12th graders to the military once a year,” Jan Witsoe said.

She said the district sends the information by October.

This year they delayed until Nov. 19 because principal Mike Johnson wanted to notify parents in two Falcon Flyer’s of the opt out provision. The second notification included a form that could be completed and returned to the school.

Witsoe said the form generated significantly more opt outs.

Witsoe said students may notify her by phone, e-mail or in writing if they don’t want to be included on the list sent to military recruiters, but she prefers it in writing.

“They only have to do it once,” Witsoe said she has been notified by several ninth-graders who say they don’t want their information released to the military although the school only sends the names of juniors and seniors.

During the 2004-05 school year, 70 of 356 juniors and seniors chose not to have their information forwarded to the military.

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