Irresistible force? 

Thanks to No Child Left Behind, military recruiters swoop into schools

click to enlarge In some districts, recruiters find plenty of open doors
  • In some districts, recruiters find plenty of open doors

The U.S. Army wants Chris.

So do the Navy, the Marines and the Air Force.

Chris, an average 17-year-old who is "not really that interested in the military," has lately been living the life of a celebrity going to extraordinary lengths to dodge unwanted attention. He recently dropped out of high school rather than face yet another military recruiter in the classroom, and says his family (which didn't want his name used in this story) is frazzled after fielding constant calls from the Armed Forces.

The barrage of solicitations began when Chris' school, Colorado Springs School District 11's Doherty High, released his personal information to military recruiters. Then Chris entered one of the last classes he needed to graduate, only to find that military recruiters made regular presentations there presentations he was expected to watch closely unless he wanted his grades to suffer.

Pretty soon, Chris was being asked to fill out military paperwork and was told that later in the year, he would be taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) a test given by the military to determine eligibility for service.

Chris feared he'd sign up for the service without realizing it.

Sound illegal? Apparently, it's not.

The No Child Left Behind Act, the 2002 legislation most famous for imposing testing on students, was also a gift to military recruiters. It forces high schools that receive federal funding to provide upperclassmen's contact information to the Armed Forces unless a parent specifically has opted out. The law also requires that military recruiters be given the same access to public schools afforded to college recruiters and potential employers.

In response, some school districts limited the access of all recruiters to high schools, rather than see classrooms turn into auction houses. Other districts rolled out the camouflage carpet.

Parents and kids haven't had much say in the matter, though University of Colorado at Boulder law professor Alan Canner says Chris might have had a right to object to the release of his information, and to his being required to fill out military paperwork, if his parent had filled out a district form protecting Chris' personal information. The district is required to issue such a form under No Child, and D-11 representatives say they mail one to parents annually. Chris' mom, however, says she's never seen it.

Meanwhile, D-11 has chosen not to set any policy, leaving details up to individual schools. Kathryn Fruh, a Doherty counselor, says she allows recruiters to set up booths during some lunch periods to answer questions, and she lets recruiters make presentations to Chris' old class, a vocational course designed for kids already in the workforce. Fruh says the class, which aims to transition kids into adulthood, presents various post-graduation options to kids, including college.

"Some of this is being respectful of these ... different opportunities that are available to kids," she says.

The counselor also encourages students to take ASVAB because of its value as a general aptitude test. But she says no military paperwork filled out in school would obligate students to the military in any way a claim confirmed by the U.S. Defense Department.

Of course, none of this was clear to Chris, who says that at this point, he'd rather get a GED.


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