Two years into the Iraq War, military recruiters are finding their jobs at high school campuses to be challenging, as some high school administrators limit their contact with students, and organizations like the Coalition Against Militarism in our Schools attempt to thwart the recruiters success.
As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, U.S. high schools are required by law to provide military officials, upon request, with the names, addresses and telephone numbers of high school juniors and seniors. CAMS has done all it can to inform parents and students that they can legally “opt-out” of having their information given to the military.
Arlene Inouye, co-chair of the Human Rights Committee of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, and coordinator of CAMS, said LAUSD has no set policy when it comes to military access to campuses, so each school administration is free to decide for itself.
If a school administration has a positive view of the military and its potential value to students, recruiters might be allowed to address classes and engage students on campus, or students might be encouraged to voluntarily take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
Inouye, who teaches at Roosevelt High School in East Los Angeles, said in part because of grassroots involvement, LAUSD’s opt-out period in 2004 increased to two months, as opposed to a two-week period in 2003.
Roosevelt had long been known as one of the premier recruiting grounds for the Marine Corps, Inouye said, but students and parents are becoming increasingly aware of the realities of joining today’s military, and are therefore turning away from recruiters at school.
Inouye said she has heard that recruiters are now targeting the housing projects in East Los Angeles, trying to reach potential recruits at home. She said the military wants to increase its Latino enlistment, which, according to the Pew Hispanic Institute, stood at about 9.5 percent in 2001.
African American recruits have fallen substantially, Inouye said.
Recent 2005 figures put their total enlistment at 13.9 percent, a 41 percent drop from 2000, according to a military update. At a recent Martin Luther King parade, Inouye said there was a distinctive mood of support for CAMS among the African Americans she spoke to.
“They said, ‘That war, that’s George Bush’s war,'” Inouye said.
At Westlake High School in Westlake Village, located in a wealthy Ventura County neighborhood, College and Career Guidance Specialist Christina Sanchez said with approximately 95 percent of the graduating student body planning on attending college, that doesn’t leave many students for the military to recruit.
“There’s not much of a military presence here,” Sanchez said.
The students mostly come from affluent backgrounds, Sanchez said. The parents are college educated, and want the same for their children, as well as to protect them from the military, she said.
According to the Conejo Valley Unified School District, which Westlake High School is part of, out of 3,160 juniors and seniors at the school, 1,465 of them, or approximately 46 percent, opted out of allowing the military to contact them.
“The Army recruiter has said when he was recruiting, the seniors would just push right past him, and some make snide comments,” Sanchez said.
At San Fernando High School, 38 percent of graduating seniors planned on attending college, according to the California Postsecondary Education Commission. Of those students planning to attend college, about 56 percent were planning on attending a community college.
Sharon Drell, college career counselor at San Fernando High School, said the school is 97.7 percent Latino, including many students whom come from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Drell has only been working at the school for four weeks, and said she hasn’t seen too many military recruiters around. She did have to redirect a recruiter last week when she saw him standing in front of her office, which recruiters are not allowed to do.
“He kept me there talking for 30 minutes,” Drell said. “Faculty (don’t) think they should just show up. They have to show up with an appointment first.”