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The Compass

Ratings don't last.  Great journalism does. - Dan Rather

The Compass

Ratings don't last.  Great journalism does. - Dan Rather

The Compass

What Are We Saying By Allowing Military Recruiters to Access Student Info?

Serena Liu

Right now every American school district is federally required to share secondary school students’ names, addresses, or phone listings at the request of a military recruitment officer. That comes with two exceptions: either a guardian (or an of-age student) has requested otherwise, or the district school board has instituted a policy prohibiting it. That means that if a recruitment officer were to visit any high school or middle school, they could easily gain access to any number of students’ personal contact information so long as they weren’t explicitly told they couldn’t. However, the board can prevent this through passing a policy prohibiting it. The U.S. military takes advantage of the easy path to student information to target an able-bodied demographic that is known to make decisions impulsively, often without enough experience to fully understand what they’re committing to. The North Clackamas School District has the ability to limit a recruiting officer’s access to the children under its care, and I strongly believe that it has an imperative to act on it.


 I certainly do not believe there is anything wrong with enlisting, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with the government wanting people to join the military. There is, however, something very wrong in singling out vulnerable people still in the midst of figuring out a harsh and complicated world, and trying to persuade them to sign up for something that could be life changing. Enlisting is a big commitment; new Army enlistees sign up for an MSO, (or Military Service Obligation) and, depending on their individual contract, they will serve two to six years in active duty, Army Reserves, or the Army National Guard. Afterwards they will carry out the rest of their service period (which lasts eight years total) in the Individual Ready Reserve, where they are not required to train or fulfill duties but can be called to action in extreme circumstances. During that time a lot can happen: According to the Pew Research Center, 62% of veterans who served since 9/11 reported experiencing an emotionally traumatic event related to their military service; data from Veterans Affairs shows that 30% of veterans that have served within the era of the operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have experienced PTSD at some point in their life; VA also says that suicide rates of veterans aged eighteen to thirty-four were far more than double that of civilians in the same age bracket. A paper titled Hospital Admissions Related to Mental Disorders in U.S. Army Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan says that younger soldiers had a 30-60% higher rate of substance abuse disorder when compared to their older counterparts. The same paper shows that female soldiers under twenty had far higher risk of suicide attempts than any other group and recommended “further surveillance” of mental disorders in the military. Joining the military can be a viable route to college, stability, and a way to serve our country; but students in need of stability should not be taken advantage of for the benefit of the military, especially in the face of the risks that are taken on when they join. If a student is interested in joining, they are able to visit a recruitment office if they wish and that should be the extent of military involvement in student life.


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Recruiting is not random either, the process targets poorer areas far more than it does areas with median or above-median incomes. These are places where students could be more heavily impacted by the benefits military life offers, namely a way out of poverty and access to higher education. In a poll of people aged 16 to 21 conducted by the Department of Defense, participants were asked, if they were to join the military, what would be their reasons. “To pay for future education” was the top answer; further illustrating the connection between financial stability and joining the military. Anthony Clark, an Air Force veteran, told Yes! Magazine, “Poverty is the draft.” This idea of poverty being a more subtle kind of draft is not unique to Mr. Clark. According to a Sojourners article, the term “poverty draft” came to be in the early 1980’s, less than a decade after the official draft was ended. The term stemmed from a common scenario where people who were facing financial hardships turned towards enlistment as a way through. The New York Times finds that schools with high rates of enrollment in J.R.O.T.C. (a recruitment program that prepares minors for enlistment) are disproportionately more likely to be attended by non-white students from low-income households. In this we see a government searching for an alternative to conscription- and we can see that they’re finding it in poorer teenagers. They are finding it in our schools.


But before service, or even enlisting, military recruiting can pose dangers to aspiring candidates. In 2006 Associated Press finished an investigation on the rates of sexual assault and rape within the recruiting process. The study revealed that in 2005 more than a hundred young women who expressed interest in joining the military reported being sexually assaulted by their recruiting officer. The victims were typically sixteen to eighteen years old and usually they met the recruiters at their home high schools. The power and experience recruiters have over the people that they are interacting with at high schools can irreversibly transform students’ lives in many significant ways.


So we need to change what is happening in our district, in every one of our high schools. There needs to be a stop to military recruiters taking advantage of students from lower-income households, students who don’t yet have the life experience to appreciate what an eight year enlistment could mean for them, especially one with the potential of putting them in combat. Anyone interested can still go to the Army website, where there are easily available resources explaining the process and the benefits. There are also over a dozen recruiting offices in the Portland area, accessible and eager for visitors. But the methods of recruiting need to change. Recruiters should not have such easy access to students in their own schools. The district board needs to instate a policy that makes it so that students’ names, addresses, and phone numbers are not handed over to recruiters unless the student shares that information with full knowledge of what is happening.

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