Friday, September 28, 2007

September PEP Meeting: Mayoral Appointees Reject Resolution on Military Recruiting

The Panel for Educational Policy meets monthly to review DOE policies and approve budgets. As the appointee of Borough President Scott Stringer, I represent Manhattan on the Panel.

At Monday's Panel for Educational Policy, I brought to the panel a resolution recommending measures to improve the oversight of military recruiting in schools. The resolution would also ensure that families could exercise their right to keep their personal information from being turned over to the military. We lost in a 6 - 3 vote with Chancellor Klein, the mayoral appointees and the appointee of the Staten Island Borough President voting against. The Queens and Bronx members joined me in supporting the resolution.

The impetus for the resolution was a report and student survey released by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Students or Soldiers Coalition.

The main findings of the survey were:

1) One in five students reported that class time was being used by military recruiters.
2) 40% of students did not receive forms allowing them to opt-out of providing personal information to military recruiters.
3) One in five students did not believe anyone in their schools could advise them on risks and benefits of military enlistment
4) Half of the survey respondents did not know to whom they should report military recruiter misconduct

In light of these findings, we prepared a resolution with a series of recommendations for the Department of Education. We suggested a chancellors regulation be implemented to clarify the policy and require appropriate enforcement measures:

1) Use of classroom time should be prohibited and limits be placed on frequency and location of recruiter visits.
2) Opt-out forms should be distributed in multiple languages to all high school students. Other easy methods should as a website or check boxes on school forms should be employed.
3) Records of military recruiter visits should be kept and published.
4) School staff should be trained in the policies and a procedure established to report recruiter misconduct and all compliance with all policies should be monitored by the DOE.
5) In each school, appropriate staff members should be trained to advise students on military enlistment.

While Chancellor Klein agreed that many of the measures made sense, he was not willing to adopt the resolution, citing the burden the measures would place on the schools. I suggested that the DOE might manage aspects of the policy centrally, for example using the new ARIS database to send the opt-out mailings, thereby actually removing an administrative burden from principals. I also pointed out how expense and administrative effort seem to be of no concern when it comes to enforcing the mayor's ban on cell phones. In any event, we will continue to press the DOE to fulfill its obligations to our children.


Jan Carr said...


I want to thank you for bringing up this issue with the DOE and for promising to press it further if possible. It's outrageous to me that the recruiters have free and unmonitored access to our students, much beyond what is even lawful. And of course they often target the students who are the most vulnerable financially. It seems to me that this is part of a pattern of the current city administration giving tacit support to the war. A couple of years ago I was passing through Union Square when I saw Cindy Sheehan get up to speak. Immediately a swarm of uniformed policemen descended on her, pushed her back roughly and confiscated her microphone. They then arrested the man who'd planned the event, hustling him off into a squad car as the onlookers stood there, stunned. This, at a peaceable demonstration, a very small event. The image was frightening to me; it almost seemed out of a documentary on some foreign dictatorship. But of course the speech that was being squelched was here in my own city, a city that has traditionally been tolerant of dissent. Recruiters do not belong in our schools, and it is telling that Klein and the DOE are unwilling to make any effort to protect our students.

Patrick Sullivan said...

There are two federal laws that require families to be given an opportunity to opt-out of giving their personal information to the military. The Bloomberg administration feels it is sufficient to ask principals to do it and leave it at that.

I often hear about how the mayor is running the schools like a corporation, "the way a businessman would" as they say. I don't see much of it. Would the head of Verizon say "We ask all our units to comply with Federal laws on allowing customers to opt out of our data sharing with third parties but it is too much trouble to make sure they all do it. Some do, some don't, oh well".

The Bloomberg administration decides what they want to do, then worries about what is legal later. Unfortunately, there are few who challenge them. If you look at the fight against the cell phone ban or the unlawful giveaway of the playing fields on Randall's Island, it's parents and community activists who end up suing.