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Bill Pushes Military Recruitment Proposed Bill Gives Military Access to Student Rolls

By Richard Lee Colvin
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- U.S. high schools would be required to help military recruiters by turning over the names and addresses of their students under a federal bill that has drawn fire from educators and privacy advocates.

About one-third of schools nationwide restrict recruiters’ access to that information or to their campuses, according to the Defense Department. If the provision is approved by Congress and signed by President Bush, school districts that fail to comply could face substantial losses of federal aid.

Some opponents of the bill say it conflicts with privacy law, which prohibits the release of information about students without parental permission. Others are philosophically opposed to fueling the military’s mission or object to its ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers.

“It’s not about being anti-military, it’s about being pro-democracy and civil rights,” said Marc Abrams, a Portland, Ore., school board member who championed a ban on military recruiting at Portland schools as a protest against what he considers the Armed Forces’ anti-homosexual policies. Tension between privacy advocates and military recruiters isn’t new, but it has been aggravated by the war on terrorism.

That effort has boosted support for the military in Congress and elsewhere, some say at the expense of privacy rights. The recruitment measure this week won bipartisan support in a committee working on a federal education-reform bill.

“I see no reason whatsoever, especially now with the war on terrorism, that any school should close off campuses (to) recruiting,” said Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif). “All they are doing is coming on to recruit people. It’s a noble profession, and at times like this we sure turn to the military for help.”

Rep. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) pushed for the amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is being worked on by a joint committee of the House and Senate. The bill, which already has passed both houses of Congress in different forms, also contains the student testing and school accountability policies advocated by Bush. “To better than 50 percent of our graduating seniors, the military may offer them the only chance to get a college education, and it’s a shame that they would not get information about that,” Isakson said.