Petition urges administrators to station military recruiters in Career Center
The Committee on Recruitment Issues at Blair (CRIB) submitted a petition intended to limit military recruiters' access to Blair students to Principal Phillip Gainous on Jan. 13. As of Jan. 23, the petition had 94 signatures from Blair parents and students and remains open for endorsement.
The petition, which was written by Blair parents, urges Blair administrators to station all recruiters in the Career Center, said Blair parent and CRIB member Madeleine Fletcher. Currently, military recruiters work from an information table in the SAC, while college recruiters are allowed only in the Career Center.
In a related effort, the Montgomery County Coalition on Recruitment Issues (MCCRI) has drafted a set of proposed procedures that seek to update current MCPS regulations on military recruiting in schools.
Currently, there are no countywide regulations on military recruitment. According to Laura Steinberg, the director of the Department of Reporting and Regulatory Accountability for MCPS, each school places its own restrictions on recruiters.
At Blair, each branch of the armed services is allowed to visit the school once per month, said Sharon Williams, the Career Center coordinator.
The MCCRI is made up primarily of Montgomery County parents who developed the procedures in response to complaints made by parents and students about military recruiters who allegedly provided students with misleading information about the armed services, targeted minority students or continued to pursue students who had made it clear they were not interested in joining the military, said Fletcher, who helped found the group last August.
The procedures, which were proposed at last November's Blair PTSA meeting, are an attempt to protect student privacy by requiring that parents and students be informed of their right to keep their contact information from military recruiters.
The proposed procedures' opponents, including some Blair parents and military recruiters, feel that the restrictions, if implemented, would unjustly limit the rights of recruiters.
Walter Abrams, a U.S. Navy recruiter, believes that recruiters require unlimited access to students, not only so they can fulfill their job obligations, but also so juniors and seniors have a complete and thorough understanding of all the opportunities that are available to them after graduation.
A detailed proposition
Three basic components make up the procedures: First, they ask that MCPS give students and parents a detailed explanation of the required steps to withhold a student's contact information from military recruiters. Under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, schools must release the name, telephone number and address of each of its students to military recruiters unless a student, parent or guardian completes an "opt-out" form.
The proposed procedures would require MCPS to explain the process in parent and student handbooks, on all MCPS and high-school web sites and on annual mailings to parents and students.
The procedures' second provision would require that military recruiters receive the same access to students as college recruiters are given. Although NCLB also requires this equal access for military and college recruiters, some high schools give an advantage to military recruiters, said Pat Elder, a Walt Whitman parent who co-founded both the MCCRI and the D.C. Anti-War Network.
Members of the MCCRI feel that allowing military recruiters to station themselves in the SAC gives them an unfair advantage over college recruiters. Under the proposed procedures, military recruiters would be limited to the Career Center, where students interested in military service could approach them in the same manner that students interested in post-secondary education can approach college representatives now.
This restriction seeks to prevent discrimination, harassment and misrepresentation of the armed services by recruiters. It keeps recruiters from targeting students based on ethnicity, race or social status, which Fletcher says has been a problem at Blair. Abrams, however, denied any such prejudice on the part of recruiters, explaining that it would be illogical for the Navy to pursue a certain demographic of students. "If someone wants to join the Navy - black, white, Hispanic - then somebody wants to join the Navy," he said. "We're going to give them the information they need."
The third and final section of the proposed procedures deals with the use of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which is a voluntary test that the U.S. Department of Defense uses to identify potential military recruits and assess their abilities. Students take it for two main reasons, Fletcher explained: "as a guide for career decisions and if they are interested in enlisting." The ASVAB is offered twice a year at Blair.
Fletcher pointed out that the ASVAB is referred to solely by its acronym on both the Blair Career Center and official ASVAB web sites. According to Elder, since the test is known only by its abbreviation in many schools, some students take it to get the career guidance provided by its results without realizing its military connections and, in doing so, unwittingly submit information to the armed services.
To prevent this type of problem, the MCCRI procedures would require that the test be referred to by its full name and that permission forms be filled out in order for contact information to be released to the military. The CRIB's petition also asks that students be notified of the ASVAB's connection with the armed services.
Over 160 Montgomery County residents, including 137 MCPS parents, have endorsed the procedures. Currently, Fletcher and other members of the MCCRI seek support for the procedures from the PTSA and MCPS. "We have started working with various MCPS officials to see what aspects of the proposed policy they would be willing to implement," Fletcher said.
After presenting the procedures at the Nov. 15 PTSA meeting, Fletcher posted them over the Blair PTSA listserv, seeking feedback and endorsements from Blair parents. According to Fletcher, 160 people, including 17 Blair parents, endorsed the procedures as of Jan. 11.
However, Fletcher's post also attracted criticism from the Blair community and beyond. Some parents labeled the procedures as "anti-military" because they seek to limit the access of military recruiters. Others, like Abrams, felt that by imposing restrictions on military recruiters, the procedures restrict an important career opportunity for high-school graduates. "It actually limits the students," he said, explaining that by assigning recruiters to the Career Center, the school would be separating students from "an avenue that they can explore."
John Shanahan, a former Navy recruiter whose son is a junior at Blair, was one of the parents who openly criticized the MCCRI's proposed procedures. He believes that recruiters should have access to students, not only because NCLB mandates it and the military can be a viable career for high-school graduates, but also because it is an act of common courtesy. "We have a duty to be courteous to American military representatives, regardless of our political persuasions," he said. "We owe them courtesy, respect and appropriate access."
After introducing the petition over the PTSA listserv on Dec. 23, Fletcher formed a separate e-mail group exclusively for the petition's supporters.
According to Fletcher, members of the MCCRI met on Jan. 18 to revise the procedures for a meeting on Jan. 25 with the Montgomery County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), during which the MCCRI planned to ask the ACLU for an endorsement of the procedures. "I see the [procedures] as a kind of blueprint, a map of where we'd like to be," Fletcher explained.
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