The following is an edited version of a letter sent to Congressman Mike Capuano in response to a Gazette article, “Capuano: Military recruiters deserve access to students,” in the Oct. 19 JP Gazette.
We have been contacted by voters who reside throughout the 8th Congressional District who wanted to sign this letter. As your constituents from Jamaica Plain, we respectfully ask you to co-sponsor and support House Bill 1346, “The Student Privacy and Protection Act.”
We feel there are major differences between access to student information for military recruiters vs. access to student information for colleges and businesses. The major difference is: If a student decides to attend a college or work for a business and they find they made the wrong career choice, they can leave. In the military, they can be there for eight years or longer. If a student enlists and chooses not to kill another human being or decides that the experience is not for them, it’s difficult to get out. The military considers it a crime to leave. If they leave, they can face prison or court-martial and can be forcibly sent back to the military. That has been the experience with others who have tried to leave.
Imagine if we allowed colleges and businesses to do what the military does—roam freely in the halls of urban high schools, aggressively pressure students and offer them lucrative sign-on bonuses without explaining the fine print, harass students at their homes—and once they sign up, keep them against their will for eight years or longer and force them to kill people.
These are challenging times. However, we need our elected members of Congress to fully represent the intent of the voters of our district and be consistent in their views. We want our congressman to not only represent us by voting to cut off funds for the Iraq war, but also to support legislation that protects vulnerable high school kids from being recruited into the war that we are trying to stop.
The legislation, sponsored by Congressman Michael Honda, is being offered as an amendment to the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, which is going through congress now. This bill reverses language inserted into the original No Child Left Behind Act by the former Republican congress, which reversed the traditional “opt in” system—where families interested in being contacted by a military recruiters could do so by letting their school know—to an “opt out” system where all students have their information automatically given to military recruiters unless they opt out by a certain date.
House Bill 1346 establishes the framework to prevent students’ personal information from being given directly to military recruiters unless they specifically authorize it. Your constituents are counting on you to protect our high school students from being recruited into this illegal war in Iraq. We respectfully ask you to represent the intentions of your constituents by sponsoring and supporting House Bill 1346 without further delay.
Tim Dean, Colleen Doherty, Jeri Levitt, Peter Lowber, Martha Matlaw, Dick Monks, Joanie Parker, Amy Poliakoff, Charles Sherman, Horace Small, Dan Weinstein