- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Members of a Montgomery County parent organization criticized the school board at its meeting last night for giving military recruiters what they say is unlawful access to schools.

The Montgomery Coalition on Recruitment Issues (MCRI) and various peace groups asked the board to keep recruiters out of school hallways and lunchrooms, to keep junior ROTC programs from being marketed to eighth-graders and to apply the same standards to junior ROTC instructors that apply to regular teachers.

“My opinion is not based on an anti-military stance. … I do, however, strongly object to the privileged access that military recruiters have” in county schools, said Ann Buki, who has children in the school system. “Setting up tables in conspicuous locations such as the cafeteria gives them unrestricted access to our sons and daughters.”

Nancy Navarro, president of the Board of Education, said military recruiters are not given more access to students than other recruiters.

“College recruiters, as well as military, do go through guidance counselors and career centers,” she said. “Colleges have a choice, and they prefer the quieter atmosphere of a career counselor office.”

Schools spokesman Brian Edwards said college and other recruiters could also use cafeterias if they wanted to.

“The bottom line is that the opponents of military recruiters in high schools are opposed to military recruiters in high schools, period, in every way, shape and form,” he said. “Unfortunately, that contradicts federal law, which gives them the right to be present in the schools.”

The No Child Left Behind Act mandates that military recruiters be given the same access to high schools that other recruiters are given.

John Kuhn, who joined MCRI last year when his then-eighth-grade son received a recruitment letter from a Navy junior ROTC program, said junior ROTC programs need to be held to the same curricular standards as normal classes. He also said the instructors should be held to the same standards as county teachers.

“Frankly, the burden needs to be on [Navy junior] ROTC to prove that it is not military recruitment dressed up as school curriculum,” he said.

Some MCRI members said that military recruiting happens more often in lower-income schools than in high-income schools.

Board member Christopher S. Barclay said he was concerned about that.

“Having sons, I’m rather concerned that in this day and age you would see low-income, African-American and Latino males contacted” more often, he said.

Superintendent Jerry D. Weast said he sent a memo to all county principals yesterday reminding them of the regulations regarding military recruiters.

Several schools officials pointed out the school system’s policy of providing parents with the option to ask schools not to give their children’s contact information to military recruiters.

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