Tolleson, AZ: Student-parent coalition seeks more opt-out options

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From the Arizona Republic (via Infoshop.org):os.jpg

Students and parents who want the military to leave them alone are gaining ground.

Across Arizona and the nation, a growing number of school districts are adopting forms to allow students to withhold their names from military contact lists.

Tolleson Union High School District is the latest to consider the form. Students, parents and privacy advocates rallied at a board meeting earlier this month to allow students to choose whether to release information to the military.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 requires schools to send student information to the military and contains a blanket opt-out provision that allows any student to keep his or her name off recruiters’ mailing lists. But it also keeps them off other lists, such as those for college recruiters and potential employers.

Reacting to public concerns, some districts, such as Glendale Union and Deer Valley Unified, in the past year have adopted specific opt-out forms, allowing students to pick where their personal information is sent. Districts such as Phoenix Union, Mesa Unified and Scottsdale Unified have had specific opt-out forms for several years.

The issue was brought to Tolleson board members by the Arizona Counter-Recruitment Coalition and the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, along with Tolleson students and parents.

David Briggs, Tolleson’s assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said he and other Tolleson officials had been concerned about jeopardizing Tolleson’s federal funding if they had a specific opt-out form.

But Briggs said a lawsuit in New York settled in January resulted in a Department of Defense form that students can fill out and be removed from all military databases. He will recommend to the Tolleson board that the form be inserted into student handbooks in the fall. Briggs said the board will likely vote in June.

Stan Hemry, a member of the Arizona Counter-Recruitment Coalition, said he was encouraged by Tolleson’s willingness to consider adopting a new form.

“They were one of the last hold-outs, and they’re also so close to a military base. If people wanted their kids to go to war, they wouldn’t be upset about having their information sent. I think it shows that people are willing to stand up for themselves and get results,” he said.

Max Martinez, a Tolleson Union High School junior, was one of about a dozen protesters who attended the April 10 board meeting. Martinez, along with his mother, Dolores, and sister Rosela, doesn’t want his name shared with recruiters.

“I don’t want the military contacting me, and I’ve talked to a lot of students at Tolleson, and they had no idea their information was being sent,” said Martinez, 17.

Nancy Hutchinson of the Army public affairs office for U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Phoenix said they do not expect recruiting to change even as more Valley high schools adopt specific opt-out policies.

“We’re not worried about it, and I don’t think it will make much of a difference. We recruit in many other places other than high schools: universities, community colleges, job fairs. Recruiters still have access to schools.”

Students may call the local recruiting offices if they wish to be taken off contact lists, Hutchinson said.

“We’re a volunteer army; no one is forced to go into the Army,” she said.

Under proposed legislation introduced in Congress last month, the No Child Left Behind Act would be amended to create an opt-in policy. Parents and students would have to specifically request their information be sent to the military. The bill is co-sponsored by Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

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