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High schools releasing student information to military recruiters

For the third year straight, U.S. military recruiters are taking the names of Colorado high school students with the hopes of recruiting them for service.

They're amassing addresses and phone numbers, planning to send them literature about the military and maybe chat over the phone. If the student agrees to it, they'd eventually like to sit down and discuss enlistment in the armed forces.

Under a little-known provision of the No Child Left Behind Act that was crafted in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, military recruiters can compel high schools to provide the personal information of male students aged 16 to 18.

"We comply," said Deb Key, records custodian for Colorado Springs School District 11. "If we don't, we get our federal funds jerked."

Defense Department officials have sent letters to schools throughout the city, giving them to the middle of October to turn over lists of their students' names and contact information.

"I've never had one (school) yet -- once you talk to the right person -- refuse to give it," said Tim Askew, an educational services specialist for the Navy in Denver who is helping coordinate recruiting in the Rocky Mountain region.

The lists are forwarded to local recruiters unless parents ask in writing that schools not share their son's information with the military.

In 2003, about 100 parents at five high schools in District 11 asked that information be withheld, Key said. Of this year's 2,044 list-eligible students, a number close to last year's will probably opt out, she added.

"Now that war is a reality, they stop and think about it," Key said.

For the first time since 1973, amid high use of reserves and National Guard troops in Iraq, some have begun speaking about the possibilities that the draft may be reinstated. In that event, the names of most high school students would already be on the Selective Service System radar because of the lists. The agency, since 1980, has mandated that male U.S. citizens and legal residents aged 18 to 25 register or risk losing benefits, such as aid for college.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., has argued the draft should be reinstated so all young Americans share the burden of war equally. Several months ago the Selective Service posted, and then quickly pulled, an advertisement on a Pentagon Web site, http://DefendAmerica.mil, seeking new applicants for the nation's roughly 2,000 draft boards: "Serve Your Community and the Nation -- Become a Selective Service System Local Board Member."

For decades, it was voluntary that schools provide recruiters with the personal information of male students approaching military age. In Colorado, there has been a law since the early 1990s that requires names to be given to recruiters, but there was no punishment if schools refused to comply.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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