By David Swanson and Pat Elder
UPDATE: We’ve heard from a number of journalists who said they would ask the Pentagon about this. We’ve contacted the Pentagon ourselves. We’ve contacted Senator Ernst and the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. We’ve requested either the list of 1,100 school districts or just an example of one or two schools. We’ve had no reply from any of these sources.
UPDATE: Timothy Paul Jerzyk has added another $1,000 to the award, making a total of $2,000.
According to statements in February by the Secretary of the Army, various U.S. high schools are barring military recruiters from access to students. The Secretary of the Navy this past December said that public school boards are keeping military recruiters out of 1,100 high schools.
The two of us are offering a $1,000 prize (details below) to any public U.S. high school that can identify itself as fitting this description.
Peace activists who struggle to gain admittance to high schools to present the case against military enlistment have not in recent years encountered a school that barred admittance to the military. The military has not publicly named a single example from its claimed list of 1,100 public high schools.
In fact, federal law requires schools that receive federal funding under the Every Student Succeeds Act to allow in military recruiters if they allow in college or job recruiters.
The possibility exists that the Pentagon is being as honest here as it was about Iraqi WMDs, and that recruiters’ difficulties in recent years are not due to schools’ policies, but rather to the low unemployment rate and the unpopularity of participating in endless brutal wars that serve no clear purpose, increase hostility toward the United States, and leave participants at heightened risk of death, physical injury, brain damage, PTSD, moral injury, violent crime, homelessness, and suicide.
It is also possible that one or more high schools have barred military recruiters but are reluctant to publicly advertise the fact in the highly militarized culture of the United States. If so, those schools deserve our thanks and the reassurance that we are doing everything we can to develop a more peaceful culture.
A third possibility is that there really are hundreds of high schools out there protecting their students from military recruiters and proud to say so. For those schools, here are the details of the award we are offering:
Post online a 2-minute video with the tag #recruiterfreeschool explaining why your school keeps out military recruiters. If more than one video is submitted, we will choose the best one. We will award that school $1,000 to help organize a peace day of educational activities, and we will further volunteer our services to speak, recruit speakers, recruit additional sponsors, provide resources, and create a peace-jobs fair.
Back in 2000 the unemployment rate stood at 4%, the lowest figure since 1971. These were extraordinarily lean days for recruiters, although not quite as bad as today. The Pentagon was in panic mode so it fixed its crosshairs on the high schools, fabricating statistics and embracing data they knew was faulty to justify unprecedented recruiter access to high school children.
In that year Congress passed a law requiring high schools to guarantee physical recruiter access to children and to provide directory information. The implementation of these draconian policies followed a bogus claim from the Pentagon that recruiters across the country had been routinely and systematically refused access to high school students. According to a story on July 6, 2000 in the Tampa Tribune, a mouthpiece for the Pentagon, “Easier Access for Military Recruiters,” “Approximately 2,000 public high schools have policies that bar military recruiters from one or more services, and high schools barred recruiters more than 19,000 times last year.”
The Pentagon never released data to substantiate this outrageous claim and it cannot be verified by the public record. Based largely on these assertions, Congress amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in 2001 to require local educational institutions, upon request, to provide physical recruiter access to children, along with their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
For more, read Military Recruiting in the United States by Pat Elder.