INK_BLAST | MILITARY RECRUITERS BULLY SCHOOLS FOR ACCESS TO STUDENTS
Without his parents’ permission, a recruiter had set up an appointment with him at his home while his folks were at work. After the son informed his father of the impending visit by a recruiter whose name he did not know and whom he had no way of contacting, his father, understandingly alarmed, called me.
As an immigrant from Colombia with little understanding of the U.S. military, he was fearful that the visit meant his son would be drafted, or that he would be convinced not to go to college. I assured him that his underage son was under no obligation to enlist. After our conversation, he had a talk with his son, and they agreed that the son would ignore the recruiter.
Their experience is all too common for Black and Latino boys in high school, as the military has bullied schools into giving them special access to students.
Under a threat written into the National Defense Authorization Act, Congress made it mandatory for high schools to provide military recruiters access to juniors and seniors, including names, addresses and telephone numbers. Generally, schools were required to give military recruiters equal access to students as they did to institutions of higher learning, such as colleges and universities.
The new law made it compulsory and punishable not to comply. “Schools that do not comply … could jeopardize their receipt of (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) funds.” Considering that a majority of public schools, including 22,000 high schools, receive money from this 1965 federal regulation, schools find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
The guidelines claim that turning over the information is “generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy,” and parents do have an opt-out option. They can request a Student Data Release Form for Military Recruitment from their child’s school and withdraw the student’s name and contact information from the list provided to recruiters.
The armed forces have a longstanding tradition of recruiting soldiers of color and sending them off to the front lines. During the Vietnam War, some 80,000 Latinos served, incurring about 19 percent of all casualties. The irony is that Latinos only made up 4.5 percent of the total population then.
Today, military recruiters go out of their way to lure students with an array of inflated promises of cash bonuses, loan repayments, college scholarships and exotic-sounding assignments.
Joining the Marines, Army, the Air Force or Navy is a viable option for many high school seniors, but that should be the student’s choice, not a decision made under pressure from aggressive recruiters.
"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit: www.juleykalantigua.com."