Friday, April 15, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Don't ban recruiters from high schools

Military recruiters have as much right to talk to students on high-school campuses as do college and corporate recruiters.

This is not a new policy, but rather a very old one. Yet, it bears repeating in light of misguided efforts by the Garfield High School PTSA to bar recruiters representing the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. A resolution drafted by the PTSA listed opposition to the war in Iraq as a primary reason to ban the military recruiters from the high school's campus. The Seattle School District rightly stepped in to remind Garfield of the legal rights of the military. But the PTSA isn't repent-ant. The organization's co-chair issued a call to other school districts to challenge the recruiting policy in court.

Politically motivated efforts such as this ought not spill over into the schools.

This opinion page is skeptical of the war, too, but let's be clear: There should be no call for shutting the military out of public life.

High-school juniors and seniors are on the cusp of adulthood. Most are able to vet information given to them and make decisions accordingly.

Parents who disagree with military service can wield their influence as they would with any other life-related decision facing their children.

Critics fear military recruiters target minority and poor students who are assumed to have fewer options. How condescending. This country's all-volunteer Army is indeed made up of mostly working-class men and women, including a higher percentage of minorities than in the general population. It has also done more to equalize opportunity and shift people into higher brackets of income than any industry.

And the charge that military recruiters don't give students complete and realistic pictures of military service? The best response is a concerted effort by parents, teachers and guidance counselors to fill in the blanks.

A little-noticed provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act requiring school districts to release the names and contact information of all high-schoolers to recruiters has garnered tremendous ire. But parents and students 18 and over can, as always, opt out and prevent release of private information.

Under NCLB, the opt-out form is more specific than before. It allows parents to single out the military for exclusion while keeping contact with other kinds of recruiters.

The opt-out option shouldn't place undue burdens on schools. Most districts, including Seattle, use computerized systems to comply with requests for information from the military and other recruiters.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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