Archive for May, 2007

Albuquerque: Student and parent activists step up the pressure on schools and recruiters

May 31, 2007

albcart.jpgFrom alibi.com, a great article by Kate Trainor, below.

The recruiters she interviews seem surprisingly frank about their methods and the possibility of dishonesty as they try to meet their quotas.

In Albuquerque’s high schools, students are more likely to sign up for military service than join the student senate. The armed forces are as popular as any school sport and, on many campuses, military recruiters and the JROTC are a more prominent presence than college or career scouts.

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, a group of Albuquerque-based activists has rallied for “balanced” representation of post-secondary opportunities in New Mexico’s public schools. The military, they say, is selling students on the service with sugarcoated stories and deceptive sweet talk.

Statistics indicate the sales pitch has been a success. Since 2005, military recruitment in New Mexico is up by 23 percent, reports the National Priorities Project. Conversely, college enrollment has stagnated. According to the 2005-2006 Report on the Condition of Higher Education, published by the New Mexico Department of Higher Education, “Enrollment at New Mexico’s public institutions of higher education is relatively flat … [and] will remain flat.”

Still, Sgt. Stephen Standifird, public affairs representative for Recruiting Albuquerque, denies any dishonesty in communication with students. “I don’t think there are a lot of blatant lies told to kids,” he says, though he acknowledges that “a recruiter has to gear their spiel to a particular kid.” Standifird says there is competition among the various military academies and that, occasionally, one will slander another to win a recruit. Otherwise, he says, recruiters are straightforward.

A year ago, the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice partnered with the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) to form Another Side, a campaign to lobby for the availability of “balanced” information about military service on APS campuses. Another Side contends that military recruiters are given preferential access to students over other groups, specifically those that advocate for peace. The group itself says it has had difficulty gaining access to the schools. By law, a school must allow military recruiters on its campus if it receives federal funds.

Casandra Stewart, now a youth intern with SWOP, graduated from West Mesa High School in 2003. Stewart recalls military recruiters calling her “at least once a week,” she says. “They would say that I needed to contact them. They were very manipulative, very knifing. I felt really targeted.” Stewart surmises that most students join the military for the promise of financial security. But, she says, “They need to know that alternatives exist.” While in school, Stewart says, she didn’t see any college or career recruiters, but felt the military was “always in [her] ear.”

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DC-area parents don’t want military survey for students

May 31, 2007

From the Washington Post, by Michael Alison Chandler:

The Army has asked Loudoun County public schools to distribute a survey to help identify students interested in the military, a proposal some parents contend would give the armed service an unfair recruiting edge over colleges and other career paths.

The brief survey, submitted to the School Board this spring by a Sterling-based recruiter, would ask students for contact information and whether they would like to learn more about the Army or Army Reserve.

Federal law requires public schools to provide contact information to the military for every high school junior and senior, unless parents choose to block the information. The law also calls for military recruiters to have the same access to students as college and career recruiters.

But some parents argue that the military, under pressure to sustain troop deployments in Iraq, is going too far in its quest to recruit students. Amid debate over the war, more parents across the country are asking school officials to clarify the federal law through local policies that create clear limits on military recruitment on campus.

Michelle Grise, a Leesburg mother, has formed a parents group to scrutinize school recruiting. She said the military should not get preferential treatment.

“We don’t allow colleges and other businesses who are recruiting to come in and pass out these surveys,” Grise said.

Her group wants to reduce the number of visits military recruiters can make to high school campuses and to confine their meetings to a career center. The group also seeks to have opt-out forms placed prominently in the student handbook. Currently, parents who wish to opt out must write a letter requesting that their children’s names not be released to the military, following instructions on Page 23 of the handbook.

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Pentagon enforces NCLB against last school in the country to resist supplying information

May 30, 2007

From the ContraCostaTimes.com:

In danger of losing about $10 million in federal education funds, the Berkeley school district has changed a last-of-its kind policy and now requires all students who do not want contact with military recruiters to sign an “opt out” form.

The district changed the policy earlier this month under pressure from the Department of Defense, which called Superintendent Michele Lawrence with the news that Berkeley High School was the last high school in the nation not in compliance with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

The act says school districts must turn over the names, phone numbers and addresses of junior and senior students to military recruiters unless parents or students sign an “opt-out” form.

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Youth and military wives critical of recruiters

May 29, 2007

From Yahoo News, two press releases. The first, from the group Global Kids says,

Dozens of New York City youth participating in the programs of Global Kids, Inc., will organize a wide range of substantive activities to educate their communities about serious social issues and advocate for concrete policy change.

The events, to be held over the next two weeks, will culminate months of campaign planning, organizing, and research conducted by the youth in Global Kids’ Human Rights Activist Project (HRAP) at four New York City high schools: Lafayette and South Shore High Schools in Brooklyn and Queens-based Long Island City and William Cullen Bryant High Schools. All four schools are large public high schools serving highly diverse student populations.

[…]

William Cullen Bryant High School – HRAP participants are raising awareness about a little known clause in the No Child Left Behind Act that makes student data available to military recruiters. They have written letters to public officials asking for the removal of the clause and are educating their fellow students about military recruitment, especially in urban communities. Currently, the students of HRAP at Bryant High School are urging their peers to sign a petition that would limit military access to student information and recruitment in public high schools.

The second, from Military Ex Network, outlines more explicit opposition to military recruiting tactics in the context of the larger war machine:

US Military Officer’s Wives announce new website, Military Ex.com (www.militaryex.com), seeking changes in a broken military system and investigations into dishonesty, failed policies, violations of civil rights, mass programming, misleading recruitment advertising, broken families, dependents in crisis and more. Military Ex also wants all military active duty and retired pay to become non-taxable irregardless of war zone service because military careers are literally “combat” for families.

“The US Military is attempting to turn our average Joe military members into hired assassins and killing machines and then penalizing troops for mistakes,” says Rhonda Coleman, Military Ex Founder. The Military Ex blog can be viewed online at http://www.militaryex.com/blog/index.php.

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Military gang activity on the rise: FBI report

May 29, 2007

The report, from February of this year, states ” Gang-related activity in the US military is increasing and poses a threat to law enforcement officials and national security. Members of nearly every major street gang have been identified on both domestic and international military installations. Although most prevalent in the Army, the Army Reserves, and the National Guard, gang activity is pervasive throughout all branches of the military and across most ranks, but is most common among the junior enlisted ranks.”

Further reporting at Stars and Stripes.

British military asks and tells without problems

May 27, 2007

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It might be fun to print this article out and confront your local military recruiters with it. Let’s not forget that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enacted under Clinton, who reneged on campaign promises to allow individuals of any sexual orientation to serve in the military, in 1993. The Dems have never mounted a serious challenge to the discriminatory and cost-ineffective policy since then, though Rep. Marty Meehan introduced a bill in February that would end it.

From the NYT, by Sarah Lylall:

LONDON, May 20 — The officer, a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, felt he had no choice. So he stood up in front of his squad of 30 to 40 people.

“I said, ‘Right, I’ve got something to tell you,’ ” he said. “ ‘I believe that for us to be able to work closely together and have faith in each other, we have to be honest and open and frank. And it has to be a two-way process, and it starts with me baring my soul. You may have heard some rumors, and yes, I have a long-term partner who is a he, not a she.’”

Far from causing problems, he said, he found that coming out to his troops actually increased the unit’s strength and cohesion. He had felt uneasy keeping the secret “that their boss was a poof,” as he put it, from people he worked with so closely.

Since the British military began allowing homosexuals to serve in the armed forces in 2000, none of its fears — about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness — have come to pass, according to the Ministry of Defense, current and former members of the services and academics specializing in the military. The biggest news about the policy, they say, is that there is no news. It has for the most part become a nonissue.

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Army recruiting boss: “Enough is enough”

May 24, 2007

6488229_bg4.jpgFrom NewsChannel5 (see also: Rep. wants investigation into deceiving recruiters in Tennessee):

A top Army official says “enough is enough.”

That’s his reaction to a NewsChannel5 investigation that caught Army recruiters and their Dishonorable Deceptions.

The Army’s deputy director of recruiting operations sent an e-mail Tuesday morning to top Army recruiting officials across the country. That e-mail is being forwarded to rank-and-file recruiters. (Read the e-mail.)

He says he has “no better way to communicate this” other than to let them see our hidden camera video.

He adds that “this is not the first undercover story, but it should be the last” to show recruiters engaged in such misconduct.

And what about the men and women NewsChannel 5 Investigates caught on camera?

Our chief investigative reporter Phil Williams went on a mission in search of those recruiters.

In a time of war, with American soldiers dying every day, it’s tough to be an Army recruiter.

“People are afraid to even talk to us,” a recruiter in Madison, Tenn., confides to our undercover producer.

But the video we captured on hidden cameras had recruiters not wanting to talk to us.

“I’ll show you if you want to see it,” Williams tells the station commander in Antioch, Tenn.

“No, I don’t need to see it, sir,” he replies, pushing down the top of a DVD player.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Phil confronted a recruiting sergeant that we caught on tape.

“Would you ever recommend that a recruit lie to get into the Army?” Williams asks.

“Like I say, you have to talk to…,” the sergeant answers, pointing inside to his commander.

“It’s simple yes or no question, sir,” Williams interjects.

The sergeant still won’t answer.

Sergeant: “I know but we….”

“There is no pressure that should cause you to compromise your integrity,” says Lt. Col. Patrick Brewington of U.S. Army Recruiting.

That’s what Brewington says is the Army’s official position.

But inside its recruiting stations we discovered a different attitude.

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Spokane: Up to 10 years in prison for recruiting station vandalism

May 23, 2007

Seems like a hefty charge for two broken windows.

From the indispensable Infoshop:

Thursday [May 10] a U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that a grand jury issued a two count indictment against 23-year-old Travis Riehl of Spokane.

The Indictment charges Travis Riehl with two counts of destruction of government property. Travis Riehl is alleged to have thrown a rock through the window of the United States Army Recruiting Station located on 29th Avenue in Spokane, on October 16, 2005. It cost in excess of $1,000 to repair the damages.

Additionally, Travis Riehl is charged with throwing a rock through the window of the Washington Air National Guard office located on North Washington in Spokane on October 16, 2005. He is alleged to have spray painted a window with the “A” anarchy symbol and the phrase, “Leave Us Alone.” Damages there exceeded $1,000 as well.

A conviction for destruction of government property carries a penalty of not more than 10-years imprisonment, up to a $250,000 fine and up to 3-year term of court supervision after release.

Veteran prosecuted for protesting military recruitment in library

May 22, 2007

I’m actually not shocked or surprised by this at all.

From Alternet:

Tim Coli served in the first Gulf War and now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

On March 12, he and his wife, Yvette, went to the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library in Ohio. At 37, she is a student at Kent State and needed to study for a biology test. Tim, 40, was reading some books.

Then they noticed two military recruiters trying to enlist someone in a nearby room, with a large glass window.

She decided to take action.

She took out some 3×5 cards and wrote messages to the man being recruited and then put them up on the window sill.

“Don’t fall for it! Military recruiters lie,” said one.

“It’s not honorable to fight for a lying President,” said another.

She says she cleared it all first.

“Before I put those cards up, I went to a volunteer and I asked her if it was OK if I put those cards up in the window, and she said she didn’t have a problem with that but talk to someone who works there,” Yvette says. “The next person said it was fine so long as there is no confrontation. And she said, ‘Between you and I, I wish they weren’t here, either.’ ”

The recruiters were none too happy with the cards.

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Seattle: 800 students walk out on war and confront school board

May 21, 2007

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Last time we covered YAWR they were pressuring a school board in St. Paul to curtail military recruiter access to students. At the end of the month YAWR organized a major student walk-out in Seattle that culminated in a confrontation with the school board (from Seattle Indymedia):

Over 800 students walked out of schools throughout the Seattle area on April 18 to demand an immediate end to the Iraq war. The walkout, organized by Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR), culminated in a protest at a meeting of the School Board, calling for military recruiters be kicked out of our schools. The students also protested the School District’s plan to close 7 Seattle schools, calling instead for money for education, not war.

Throughout the day of rallies and marching throughout Seattle’s downtown, the students’ energy and enthusiasm was palpable, with non-stop chanting and speeches. Students from over 35 schools joined the walkout, mainly from high schools, though there were also many students from colleges and even a few middle schools. Unlike many antiwar protests which often draw the same crowd of activists, this walkout succeeded in mobilizing hundreds of new students and young people who had been to few protests before, if any.

After a rally and a long march, we rallied outside the Seattle School board, where there was a concert with amazing music and more speeches. Seattle hip-hop artists RA Scion and Gabriel Teodros, among others, performed. Throughout the day of rallies many different high school and college students spoke, as well as speakers from Iraq Veterans against the War, Socialist Alternative, and Jobs with Justice, among others.

When the School Board meeting started, the normally sterile atmosphere of the meeting, which is usually dominated by bureaucrats and detached politicians, was disrupted when over 125 protestors marched in chanting “What do we want? Recruiters out! When do we want it? Now!” taking over the meeting for several minutes.

The one hour public comment period was dominated by powerful speeches by students and antiwar activists, frequently interrupted by thunderous applause. Speaker after speaker demanded the School Board finally take meaningful action against military recruiters and stop the school closures.

School Board members were clearly taken aback by the community’s outrage. While they have tried to create the impression that they are listening and will begin enforcing and tightening their policies restricting recruiters, we will definitely need to keep up the pressure on them to make sure they really follow through in deeds, not just in words. At the same time, a new policy further restricting recruiters access to Seattle public schools would still be far short of what we need—military recruiters out of schools completely.

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