May 20, 2009
In a Switch, City Tells Schools to Monitor On-Campus Military Recruiting
By JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ
Schools will be required to provide military opt-out forms to 9th- and 10th-grade students and to develop a plan to monitor on-campus recruiting by the armed forces, according to new guidelines announced by the city’s Department of Education on Monday night.
The requirements, set to go into effect this fall, follow months of criticism from civil liberties groups, which had pushed to curtail recruiters’ access after school officials decided last year to give military recruiters access to a central database of students’ names, addresses and telephone numbers. Previously, recruiters had been forced to go from school to school to collect students’ data.
The new guidelines extend the requirement to include opt-out forms in orientation packets to younger high school students; in the past, only 11th- and 12th-grade students received the forms. The Department of Education will also add information on opting out to its instructions on their rights and to materials for students who take an armed services aptitude test.
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, praised the changes, which include a requirement that principals appoint a staff member to oversee a military recruiting plan for each school. Ms. Lieberman said that too often there was not enough oversight of the recruiters and that in some cases they were too aggressive.
“They are not to get unfettered access to the students in the school,” she said. “They have to be regulated.”
The Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, who had also lobbied education officials to make the changes, called the guidelines “real and substantive.”
“This is really going to protect our kids,” he said.
Last year, when the city’s decision to centralize the recruiting process drew an outcry from civil liberties advocates, the Department of Education defended the change. Education officials said it would allow the city to improve its monitoring of students’ use of opt-out forms and tell schools with unusually low numbers to make sure they were being properly distributed.
Last fall, the number of students submitting opt-out forms increased to 45,717, up from 38,227 in 2007 and 22,357 in 2003, according to data released at a meeting of the city’s Panel for Educational Policy on Monday night.