A little-noticed provision in a new federal education law is requiring high schools to hand over to military recruiters some key information about its juniors and seniors: name, address, and phone number. The Pentagon says the information will help the military to recruit young people to defend the country. But the law disturbs parents and administrators in some liberal communities who aren't exactly gung ho about the armed forces. Some say the law violates students' privacy and creates a moral dilemma over the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays.
"I find it appalling that the school is sending out letters to do the job of the military," said Amy Lang, parent of a student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Massachusetts, where Coca-Cola was once banned in a protest against the soda giant's investments in apartheid South Africa. "It's clearly an invasion of my daughter's privacy."
The "No Child Left Behind" law, approved last January, pumps billions into education but also gives military recruiters access to the names, addresses, and phone numbers of students in 22,000 schools across the country. The law also says that schools must give the military the same access to their campuses that businesses and college recruiters enjoy. School systems that fail to comply could lose federal money. The measure also applies to private schools receiving federal funding. However, Quaker schools and others that object to military service on religious grounds are exempted. Students and parents who oppose the law can keep their information from being turned over to the military, but they must sign and return an "opt-out" form.
So far, 95% of the nation's schools are in compliance, said Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Sandra Troeber. She would not identify the other schools. But Education Department spokesman Dan Langan said the current focus is on cooperation and that no schools have been sanctioned.