It’s time to decide whether to turn the military loose on your child
Stephanie Asteriadis did not know about the military recruitment opt-out form last year when one of her children was a senior at Reno High School. She found out about the form last week—and it then occurred to her why her son was deluged with calls and letters from military recruiters.
“Oh, that’s why we got all those phone calls. … I never heard that you have to file something,” Asteriadis said from Arizona, where her son will attend college. “We got all these letters coming to the house and voicemail messages for him, which I just delete because he’s going to go to Northern Arizona University in the fall, and I just don’t want him even to go near them.”
Under federal law, local school districts are required to provide students information to military recruiters unless parents specifically request otherwise. Students can’t make the request themselves.
Last year, the Washoe County School District did not have an opt-out form for parents to use when school started. It accepted letters. But things have become much more organized since then. A form was quickly designed last year, and the district used its Web site, letters home, the district newsletter and news releases to media entities to publicize the availability of the form. The district also extended the deadline for parents to file. The form is posted on the Washoe school district Web site and can be picked up at every high school. Local parents also did a lot of grassroots organizing to get the word out that Congress had required opt-out instead of opt-in, and that if parents did nothing, they were effectively opting in.
“Last year, because we were still kind of inventing this train while it was in motion, we extended the deadline all the way up to the Thanksgiving vacation,” district spokesperson Steve Mulvenon said. “And, you know, we’ll take those forms anytime during the year, but kids and parents have to realize that if we get it past October 1, we may well have already done some sort of a release to the military. If they get it in to us by October 1, they know they’re clear for the whole year.”
The Washoe school district has long had a standard procedure for releasing “directory information” to college recruiters and others. The term is defined by a federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It includes name, address, telephone listing, electronic mail address, date and place of birth, photographs, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, field of study, weight and height of athletes, enrollment status, degrees and awards received, dates of attendance, most recent previous school attended, and grade level.
One thing has changed since last year: Parents then were given an all-or-nothing choice. They could opt out of the district providing information to everyone, including college recruiters, or for none. They could not pick and choose. The district no longer forces them to make that choice. Mulvenon said, “And they specify on that form whether they want the exclusion of releasing their kids’ directory information to everybody or whether this is a military-only exclusion.”
Mulvenon says there was no military criticism of the school district or parents for allowing opt-outs. “I don’t think we heard any of that. What we tended to hear were the critics on the other side of the issue. For instance, they thought we should have done a special mailing to every parent in the district and provided the form for them in the letter, and we said no.”
The requirement that military recruiters be given access to students records was enacted by Congress twice, in two different pieces of the legislation—the “No Child Left Behind” education law and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2002. The four currently serving congressmembers from Nevada who were in Congress then—Jim Gibbons, Shelley Berkley, Harry Reid, and John Ensign—all voted in favor of both measures.
The problem is not over for Stephanie Asteriadis. She has another child in high school who is now a sophomore, and she intends to file the opt-out form. Referring to her children, she said, “If they want to go, fine, but I don’t want someone talking them into it.”