High Schools and Military Recruiters

Recently, the Peace House was sent a copy of a letter written by a Metro area high school student expressing frustration at presence of military recruiters in his high school. A portion of that letter is printed here along with reflections by Risa Wilkinson, a member of the local Oklahoma Committee for Conscientious Objectors (OCCO). The OCCO is currently accessible at the Joy Mennonite Church, (405) 945-1925.

The writer identifies him or herself only as “Freedom Writer” and includes the following remarks in his or her letter to the principal:

As objection to this war has reached record highs, the president wants to send even more troops to Iraq only to come home in body bags. Where do they find such recruits? . . .They send recruiters to high schools to recruit students with few academic opportunities. They advertise free college tuition and signing bonuses that are subject to change without the recruit’s notice . . . They come with their fancy cars and their flashy uniforms promising career opportunities that cannot be upheld.

By letting these military recruiters infiltrate our school cafeterias and classrooms, you are jeopardizing the lives of your students. . . As soon as they graduate, these high school recruits will be sent almost directly to Iraq and yet you do nothing to educate these students on the dangers of entering the service.

. . . You should not let recruiters peddle their b__s___ on the great opportunities the military currently has to offer them . . . (You may read the full text of this letter at www.peacehouseok.org.)

Risa Wilkinson, OCCO member and counselor for the GI Rights Hotline offers the following to Freedom Writer and others who are concerned about on-campus military recruitment.

Q: What are the options for students, parents, or schools who do not want recruiters in area high schools?
In 2002 Pres. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act and as a requirement to get federal funding, schools must hand over student contact lists to military Recruiters. This information includes home phone numbers, addresses. Schools are also required to offer equal campus access to military recruiters as they do to college recruiters. In order for recruiters to be expelled, the school would have to reject federal funding.

Q: What options currently exist to counter the influence of these military recruiters?
Giving military recruiters equal access as college and career recruiters does not mean giving them more access. And alternative options may also be granted equal access. An equal amount of information from opposing sides should be granted. For example, a representative of OCCO could be invited to any school to present non-military options for post-high school graduation, including how to get funding for school without military obligation, including how to find grants. Since many young people join the military in order to travel, OCCO can also provide information on how to affordably travel.

Q. Have OKC Metro schools taken advantage of this option?
I don’t know how many, but I know of at least one area high school that has invited CCO to talk about non military options and the effects of war.

Q. What other venues are suitable for presenting this type of information?
OCCO would be happy to send representatives to churches, peace clubs, community events, or anywhere we might be invited.

Q. What other resources are available?
www.okobjector.org has more information on the No Child Left Behind Act and things you can do about in your area. Veterans for Peace also has some materials.

It is important for parents to know that there is an “opt out” form that they can sign prohibiting schools from giving out their child’s information. Parents who are concerned should certainly do this. However, be aware that recruiters are also gathering information on the internet through blogs, chat rooms, and other popular websites such as Myspace.

The Oklahoma Committee for Conscientious Objectors has plenty of materials and brochures available. Call (405) 945-1925.