The letter continued: “In an effort to follow the law and protect your rights as parents and guardians, our school board policy 347
has changed. I hope our new policy has provided you with the opportunity to protect your rights to privacy and maintain control over
who receives this directory information.”
On the reverse side of this important letter to parents is Form 347-2, which is easy to follow. All it asks for is the name of the
student and a listing of “any groups to which you would not like information to be released.” The forms must be signed and dated by
parents or guardians and returned to the high school office no later than October 1.
“By completing this form,” the letter said, “you will restrict access of Student Directory Data information to the groups listed on your
Kaukl was correct to include in his letter the point that military access to student information has raised much concern. Concern
was raised in the River Valley and across the U.S. after the weighty No Child Left Behind Act included, tucked away in Section 9528, a
provision giving military recruiters the same access to high school students as is provided to colleges and prospective employers. If
schools fail to comply, their federal aid (about two percent of total revenues) could be shut down, and a list of enforcement procedures
for non-complying schools was put in place. The punishments stopped short of water boarding.
The problems created by Section 9528 are obvious. Can any rational comparison be made between recruiting minor age children
to join a branch of the military before they graduate from high school as opposed to talking to them about going to college or getting a
civilian job? Of course not. To pretend that the military is just another job — while deadly wars are being waged in Iraq and
Afghanistan — is the height of deceit. In fairness to them, and respectful of their youthful lack of life experience, high school students
should be spared from making such a life and death decision, at least until they reach the age of majority.
But the No Child Left Behind Act leaves no child behind when it comes to military recruitment. And it also left school districts in a
quandary about how to comply with the law while protecting student privacy rights. The result has been an incredible unevenness in
policies from district to district. In the River Valley, after years of revisions, the policy is clearly stated. Some districts, however,
among the 425 in Wisconsin, have no policy whatsoever and don’t even offer students a chance to opt out.
Another issue is the military recruiters’ in-person access to students. Most schools, like the River Valley, provide a table in the
cafeteria during lunch hours on pre-scheduled days for recruiters to offer information to students. With varying degrees of hospitality,
most schools also provide similar chances for other legitimate groups to present students with information about alternatives to the
The resulting tension has led some districts, like Dodgeville, to restrict both military recruiters and advocates of alternative points
of view to the guidance office on pre-arranged days, leaving it up to the students to visit if they are so inclined.
After eight years, the mandate for high schools to yield student data to military recruiters remains controversial. But much more is
known about military recruitment thanks to research by the National Priorities Project and to inquiries submitted through the Freedom of
It’s clearly documented that the highest recruitment rates are found in counties with incomes below the national average, and that
high-income neighborhoods are under-represented and low and middle-income neighborhoods are over-represented. My Army
colleagues and I joked about such discrepancies 45 years ago when we couldn’t find a corporate CEO’s son among our ranks.
It’s also known that recruiting teenagers is costly. The cost per recruit has been reported as ranging from $24,000 to $40,000.
From 2004 to 2008, according to The Washington Post, annual funding for military recruiting doubled from $3.4 billion to $7.7 billion. At
the federal level, the Pentagon was recently ordered to cap recruiting and retention funding at the 2009 level. That could mean lower
enlistment bonuses, reduced military advertising and fewer recruiters.
No matter where your sympathies rest, high school teenagers should be left alone to study and socialize and grow up into adults
that can make wise decisions when needed. Parents and guardians would be well advised to talk to their children about opting out and
to file the form if that’s their choice. It’s one thing to go to college or get a job. The military is another story.
By David Giffey
Editor’s Note: David Giffey, editor of Home News in Spring Green and long-term
volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club, received a 2010 Golden Dozen Award for
Outstanding Editorial Writing at the International Society of Weekly Newspaper
Editors (ISWNE) conference in Richmond, Kentucky last June. His editorial
questioned allowing military recruiters access to high school students before
they become of age. We reprint his editorial with Giffy’s permission.
In late July, River Valley parents and guardians were mailed letters from the
high school clearly informing them that the military will have access to student
information unless they “opt out” by October 1, and choose not to provide student
data to the military.
The letter, signed by Principal Kim Kaukl, explained that the No Child Left
Behind Act of 2001 “gave the military access to directory information of all
students and this has raised much concern over the past few years.”
|David Giffey with his 2010 Golden Dozen Award