Monday, January 6, 2003

Military recruiters accessing pupil data

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

As talk of war in Iraq heats up, some public school students are surprised to find that President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act includes a little-known provision that gives military recruiters easier access to their phone numbers and addresses.

Tristate educators say they've been giving out that information for years and send notices to parents asking if it's OK to dole out students' personal information to organizations that request it. For example, colleges regularly ask for that information to send brochures.

But the federal education law signed a year ago in Hamilton, Ohio, no longer allows schools to turn away military recruiters who want the information unless a parent specifies that the information be kept private. Schools that don't comply risk losing federal funds.

New attention on access for military recruiters is encouraging some school officials to stress the new provision in letters to parents.

"Because it's become a public issue, our future notice will say specifically that the No Child Left Behind Act requires that information be provided to military recruiters unless (parents) ask differently," said Jon Weidlich, spokesman for Lakota schools.

Cincinnati and Mason schools say they will continue to send the same form they annually send asking parents if they want their children's information withheld.

In October, the federal government sent a reminder to high schools about the new requirement, which says that military recruiters can have access to students' "directory information." That can include a student's name, address, phone number, e-mail address, photo, date and place of birth and major field of study.

Some Tristate students think the military has a right to access personal information.

"I have many colleges that send me information every single day, so why shouldn't the military do the same? It is just as good of an opportunity for young people as college is," said Angela Prues, a 17-year-old Milford High School senior.

But other students are opposed to the requirement.

April Sutton, 18, a senior at Glen Este High School, said she and her parents have not been notified about the new provision of the federal law, and she doesn't want military recruiters to have access to her information.

"Not to sound like a civil liberties activist or conspiracy buff, but this country was founded on privacy and individual rights," she said. "I understand how horrible terrorism is and all, but we shouldn't have to give up all of our liberties to be safe. We lost a lot with the terrorism of Sept. 11, but need we lose it all? (This) country that terrorists hate so much is slowly becoming like the countries where terrorists are bred."


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