The New York Post and Newsday today brought us the disturbing news that nine NYC public high schools plus a tenth school in New Jersey will be partnering with the U.S. Army to learn “life skills.” As the Post states, “…students will be drilled by soldiers in setting goals,” adding later the preposterous assertion from military officials that “the project is not a recruitment tool.”
The program will be overseen through the DOE’s Public School Athletic League (PSAL), but the true coordinating body is a nonprofit organization called Academics in Motion (AIM) that already operates in all ten of those schools under a five-year, $1 million contract from the DOE. While their program until now appears to have been a positive one in motivating students through athletics, this new arrangement calls their presence and their contract with DOE into question and raises serious civil liberties concerns regarding campus access to and recruiting of high school students.
Neither newspaper listed the nine NYC high schools. They are New Dorp, Curtis, and Port Richmond in Staten Island; Tilden, Canarsie, and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn; Jamaica in Queens; and Kennedy and Columbus in the Bronx. AIM claims involvement of 500 student/athletes currently, but a September 15, 2008 article on iHigh.com (New York High School News and Sports) stated that their plans for 2008/09 were to increase to 20 high schools and 2,000 students in their program. Thus, we have the near-term potential for this new military presence to double its number of access points within our public high schools and quadruple the number of students with whom the military has direct contact.
Following upon the unwelcome news earlier this year that the DOE was removing control over distribution of student information to military services from individual schools and principals and centralizing it behind their own closed doors, this announcement marks a second step through which the DOE/U.S. military relationship appears to be growing increasingly cozy. As is invariably the case, there is no evidence that CEC’s or parent organizations in any of the affected schools or school districts were given the opportunity to decline the military’s aggressive new presence in their schools. For the politicians considering the merits (or lack thereof) of mayoral control, here is another prime example of unilateral DOE actions likely taken against parents’ wishes but certainly done so without their meaningful participation or even consultation.
Parents and PTA/PA organizations already concerned about military recruiting at their schools may want to contact the NYCLU or the Students or Soldiers? Coalition.