When it comes to military recruitment in public schools, no child’s information is left inaccessible.
According to a brief section of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), any school receiving federal funding is required to provide military recruiters with middle and high school students’ names, phone numbers, and addresses upon request. Meanwhile, the Pentagon maintains a Department of Defense (DoD) database known as the Joint Advertising and Market Research Studies Recruiting Database that contains extensive information on approximately 30 million Americans ages 16 to 25.
The database is updated daily and includes information such as social security number, grade point average, ethnicity, areas of study, height, weight, email address, selective service registration, and phone number. Individuals may opt out from being included in this database but must repeat this process upon changing address. Many objectors claim that this database violates the Federal Privacy Act.
The military also uses the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery as a means of information gathering. The “most widely used multiple aptitude test in the world,” the DoD develops and maintains the test and more than half of America’s high schools participate. Students’ scores determine which occupations best suit them. Taking the ASVAB is also a requirement for military enlistment.
In order for their tests to be processed, students are required to sign a waiver that allows the military to keep any information provided on the form for various uses. In most cases, military recruiters automatically receive copies of students’ scores, names, grades, sex, addresses, phone numbers, and post-graduation plans unless the school decides against releasing this information.
“Many students will take the ASVAB and not know what it is,” Pitcaithley says. “It gives the military a foot in the door to accessing students.”
One mother says that during her son’s freshmen orientation this summer at Baldwin High School on Maui, a guidance counselor mentioned the ASVAB as a free test offered to students by the military.
“The counselor told us that you don’t have to join the military if you take the test, but didn’t even bring up the fact that the military will have a record of the students’ information and that they may be subject to recruitment,” the mother says. “I don’t think the schools are trying to be covert but I think they may be misguided.” The mother prefers not to reveal her name because she does not want her son to have problems at school, nor does she want people to think she is unpatriotic. The Baldwin guidance office could not be reached to determine whether the school releases ASVAB information to the military.
Recruitment and Military on Campus
Hawaii ranked fourteenth in the nation in 2006 for the number of active-duty Army recruits per 1,000 youth ages 15 through 24, according to an Army report requested by the National Priorities Project (NPP). The report also ranked Honolulu number 22 out of the top 100 U.S. counties for the number of active-duty Army recruits in 2006.
Combined with the 116,000 retired military personnel living in Hawaii, the military-connected population totals 217,030 (17 percent of Hawaii’s total population). The 2000 U.S. Census found that Hawaii has the largest percentage of its population in the military among the states.”
In addition to military recruiters’ ability to gain access to student information, in many cases they also command a strong presence on high school campuses.
Pete Shimazaki, who has been a teacher on Oahu in various capacities for the past five years, says he witnessed an Army recruiter holding a push-up contest at Farrington High School on Oahu that required students to fill out their name, address, and phone number on a clipboard before competing for an Army T-shirt.
Shimizaki, who is also coordinator for Oahu’s truth in recruiting group, CHOICES, mentions that in some schools recruiters also hold assemblies, give presentations in classrooms, have their own desks at schools, and volunteer to chaperone at school functions.
“You can’t go anywhere without seeing military advertising,” he says. “There are calendars, lanyards, book covers, and recruiters everywhere.” The DoD’s spending on recruiting stations and advertising surpassed $1.8 billion in 2006. When you include the pay and benefits of 22,000 military recruiters and other related costs the total amount spent is around $4 billion per year, according to the NPP.
A teacher at Hilo High reports that the principal, a former marine, allowed an Air Force jazz band to perform during lunch one day, and while the band was warming up, the students heard the music from their classrooms, got excited, and the classes were disrupted. During the performance, a large banner unraveled before the band revealing a phone number to call to enlist.
“That was nasty. That was not fair,” says the teacher, who chooses not to reveal her identity in order maintain her reputation at the school. “If you’re going to show the military’s side, you have to offer other sides of the story.”
Clare Loprinzi says that when she was substitute teaching at Kealakehe High School on the Big Island two years ago, the career and counselor office walls were covered in military posters with only two posters for colleges. She says she posted two truth-in-recruiting posters that were taken down that same day. Loprinzi says she also aired on the school’s morning announcements and discussed with students some of the realities of military life including the number of women who are raped in the military.
“I was really active at Kealakehe two years ago and then I wasn’t asked back to substitute the following year. Even though teachers told me they wanted me to teach for them, they were told by administration to not ask me to teach for them” Loprinzi says. “If I can’t speak the truth, then I’m not teaching. You’re not going to find other teachers who are willing to speak up like me. They are afraid to lose their jobs.”
Other Hawaii teachers contacted for this article were unwilling to speak out on the subject of military and recruiter presence on campus. Several throughout the state, however, reported witnessing military recruiters approaching special education students.
“We thought this was criminal,” says Diaz, who was contacted by concerned teachers. “The students already have cognitive problems that could affect their decision-making. It’s scary.”
Kajihiro, who hears about military and recruitment abuses through his work with AFSC, says that one teacher reported that his school offered a military recruitment fair without offering any alternative careers or information.
“Schools should not be used for recruiting,” Kajihiro says. “Schools have an obligation to offer a world of possibilities…I think it’s true that some people gain positive experiences from the military, but there are other ways to serve the public without taking a life.”
“The relationship between recruiters and students is an area between adults and kids that people aren’t monitoring,” says Catherine Kennedy, coordinator for Truth2Youth on the Big Island. She mentions several instances she has heard of nationwide in which recruiters have had sexual relations with students. The Associated Press reports that in 2005 more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined for sexual misconduct with potential enlistees and that 722 Army recruiters have been accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996.
The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps reports more than 3,200 units nationwide, 501,000 students enrolled, and 700 schools on waiting lists to obtain programs. State education funds and federal DoD funds totaling $600 per JROTC student per year supply instructor salaries, learning materials, uniforms, and equipment. Principals may choose to allocate school funds for additional program needs. Of Hawaii’s 46 public non-charter high schools, 24 have JROTC programs.
“We’re pretty saturated, naturally, as a small state,” says Lt. Col. Antoinette Correia, Hawaii JROTC coordinator. “The JROTC curriculum focuses on civics, physical fitness, and optional extracurricular activities such as rappelling, military skills, marksmanship, obstacle courses, and drill and ceremony.” She reports that six of the state’s JROTC programs offer marksmanship in which cadets fire pellet guns. The JROTC curriculum, a three or four year program for high school students, was developed by the military and is taught by retired military personnel. It emphasizes military service as one of the several ways one can serve and lead the country.
“These recruiters and JROTC instructors are not certified teachers, yet they are given the same access to students as teachers,” Pitcaithley says. “This makes parents and students think they have to trust them.”
West Hawaii Today reported on April 12, 2007, that a male teacher allegedly had sexual relations with a female student in the tenth grade at Kealakehe High School before the school’s Easter break this year. West Hawaii Complex Area Superintendent Art Souza confirms the teacher in question is a JROTC instructor. Souza says the investigation is complete but that a final decision has not yet been made as to what will happen to the instructor, whose name has not yet been released.
“This is a complicated situation,” Souza says. “We have to deal with the teacher’s contract with the DOE, the police investigation and criminal proceedings, and the teacher’s contract with the military.”
Objectors argue that JROTC is yet another way for the military and recruitment to expand its influence in schools. An AFSC executive summary reads: “Public schooling strives to promote respect for other cultures, critical thinking, and basic academic skills in a safe environment. In contrast, JROTC introduces guns into the schools, promotes authoritarian values, uses rote learning methods, and consigns much student time in the program to learning drill, military history and protocol, which have little relevance outside the military.”
Cadets are required to wear JROTC uniforms once a week. At some schools, cadets carry the flag at football games, hold drill meets, and march ahead of the class at graduation ceremonies.
“I’ve seen JRTOC teachers yelling at kids and being really intimidating,” says Loprinzi of her experiences at Kealakehe High School. She adds that instructors often approach less popular kids to sign up and that students have told her JROTC teachers encourage students to enlist in the military in order to have their college paid for.
“Recruitment is not our goal,” Correia says. “The kids JROTC attracts are often those who can’t find a place in high school. We give them a place where they can belong and where they can feel good about themselves.”
Although the AFSC reports that 45 percent of JROTC cadets join the military after high school, Correia says this figure is around 20 percent for Hawaii programs.
About Face, Forward March, and Community All Stars
The National Guard sponsors three extracurricular programs—About Face, Forward March, and Community All Stars—that are available to students throughout the nation. In Hawaii, these programs are available in varying degrees on Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Maui, and the Big Island.
The program pays students $15 per after school session and are available at schools for 12 to 19 year olds, depending on the program. The programs claim to offer work and life skills, critical thinking exercises, supplemental guest speakers, budget and meal planning, among others. Program directors say that these programs are not used for recruiting.
There are options for parents who want to safeguard their children from recruiters and the programs they promote. The NCLB act, states that students or parents can opt out from having their information released to the military. Still, questions remain as to whether people are aware of this option.
In Hawaii, the number of students who opted out from having their personal information released to recruiters rose from 1,913 to 21,836, nearly a quarter of the secondary student body, from the 2005/2006 to 2006/2007 school years. “Students can initiate opt out requests by turning in some formal writing,”says Greg Kanudsen, communications director for the Hawaii State Board of Education (BOE). “Parents don’t even have to sign.” He also explains that opt out requests are valid only for the school year in which they are submitted. One must opt out each year in order to keep information private.
Ann Pitcaithley, coordinator for Maui Careers in Peacemaking, notes that in her experience promoting truth in recruiting she has found that a high percentage of parents are unaware that their children may opt out. Many cases, however, have been reported in which recruiters have contacted students regardless of the fact that they had requested otherwise.
“My daughter opted out and was contacted by recruiters at least twice on her cell phone,” explains Ave Diaz, who launched Careers in Peacemaking in 2005. “They finally ceased when she told them her mother was a peace activist.”
Lies and Truth in Recruiting
Former Navy Officer Pablo Paredes, who made headlines in December 2004 when he refused to deploy to serve the war in Iraq and is now a spokesperson against the war, says the two most common recruitment myths are money for college and job training.
According to an article by Sam Diener of Peacework Magazine, 57 percent of veterans who sign up for the Montgomery GI Bill never receive money for college, and the average payout for veterans who do has been $2,151 a year. The maximum one may receive is $9,036 a year for four years, “still less than the in-state tuition room and board at many state universities, and only a fraction of the cost of a private college,” Diener writes.
One must serve a minimum three years of active duty, receive an honorable discharge, and pay $100 per month for the first 12 months they are in the military in order to be eligible for MGIB. Those who are later ruled ineligible receive no refund.
“Military job training is often restricted to military needs and therefore does not transfer well into the civilian world,” Paredes explains. He says he cannot utilize his Navy technical expertise outside of the military, and because of his discharge conditions, he neither received money for college, nor was he refunded the $1,200 he paid.
Shimazaki, who served as a medic in the Army from 1986 to 1989, says he did receive money for college but that “it wasn’t worth it.”
He adds that recruiters told him before he enlisted that if he became a medic in the military he would be able to get a job in a hospital afterward. When he was discharged just before the Gulf War, he found it impossible to find such a job because his skills did not transfer.
“I experienced first hand the pressure from recruiters. They don’t operate on full disclosure,” he says. Currently, Shimazaki is working toward obtaining his Hawaii DOE certification and is student teaching this school year. He also volunteers for the GI Rights Hotline.
“I am concerned with the proliferation of militarism in schools. I have the privilege of seeing what’s been happening in public schools and it’s alarming,” Shimazaki says. “The recruiters use scare tactics. They make students think they’ll never survive financially after high school without joining the military.”
Reports and videos of recruiters telling students they won’t have to go to Iraq if they join, they can get out of the military easily if they change their minds, and they can choose where they are based flood the Internet via YouTube, peace websites, and blogs.
Since the advent of the war in Iraq and NCLB, truth in recruiting groups have been sprouting across the nation with a mission to offer students the “other side” and alternatives to joining the military that they say recruiters and educators fail to mention. There are currently four such groups in Hawaii—Truth2Youth on the Big Island, CHOICES on Oahu, Careers in Peacemaking on Maui, and Kauai Peace Ohana on Kauai.
“The objective of CHOICES is not to tell people not to join the military, but to inform young people of the realities of war and the alternatives to military service so that they can make a choice,” Shimazaki says. Similar to other truth in recruiting groups, CHOICES aims to show students other ways to finance college and serve their communities.
“We strive toward advocacy versus activism,” Kennedy says. “Average teenagers aren’t going to know that they don’t have to listen to or can be skeptical of what recruiters say. Recruiters only give one side of the story. They’re under enormous pressure to reach their quotas. Being a recruiter is a really good job compared to others in the military. They get regular hours, they won’t be deployed, they get a car and a cell phone, and they can be close to their families. So recruiters have to keep this job by getting more recruits.”
A facts and statistics sheet compiled for truth in recruiting states, among many other things, that all provisions of a military contract are subject to change, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects one out of every six soldiers, soldiers who served in Iraq are committing suicide at higher rates than in any other war where such figures were documented, 90 percent of recent female veterans report sexual harassment within the military, a third of which reported being raped, and that alcohol misuse rose form 13 to 22 percent in the year after soldiers returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. This data was compiled from the DoD, the Veteran’s Association, the Army Times Publication, and the GI Rights Association.
Last year Kennedy and Pitcaithly were successful in holding assemblies in several schools on Maui and the Big Island in which Paredes spoke about the realities of the military and war.
“The kids were just stunned,” Kennedy says. “They knew nothing about war. Kids in a history class I spoke to couldn’t even define ‘civilian casualty.’”
Pitcaithley says she also sets up tables at career fairs, holds workshops in classrooms, and gives presentations to youth groups.
“We take an interactive approach with students. We ask them about their presumptions about the military and their experiences with recruiters and then we debunk their ideas and present the realities,” says Pitcaithley, who also conducts an extensive review of the enlistment contract with students.
The Hawaii BOE Controversial Issues Policy states: “Student discussion of issues which generate opposing points of view shall be considered a normal part of the learning process in every area of the school program…Teachers shall refer students to resources reflecting all points of view.”
There is also a federal ninth circuit court ruling mandating that when the military comes to a high school, students have a legal right to hear diverse views.
“If schools are allowing recruiters into the schools they have the obligation to offer alternative information and opposing viewpoints about the military and war,” Kajihiro says.
“The kids aren’t getting facts. They’re getting an aggressive military marketing campaign,” Kennedy says.
Despite the policies and rulings in favor of truth in recruitment, these groups often experience difficulties gaining access to schools. First, they must find a teacher who is willing to support them or invite them to speak to the class, and then, they must obtain approval from the principal to enter the school.
“It’s very, very hard work,” Kennedy says. “It’s intense. It’s me versus the six young, good-looking recruiters for each branch of the military. Sometimes teachers don’t return my calls and say they don’t have time for me to do a presentation because they’re focused on passing tests. Sometimes it’s the principal that doesn’t want to let us in.”
She adds that some teachers are afraid to be perceived as unpatriotic and that other newer teachers are afraid to lose their jobs if they are not tenured. “Are they really serving kids by giving us the runaround?” she asks.
“There’s a lot of fear concerning this issue,” Kajihiro says. If you’re working in a school there’s a lot of pressure. If you say anything that the military doesn’t like you’ll be branded as unpatriotic.”