School Policies

Op-out and ASVAB Policies, Monterey, CA

SUGGESTIONS FOR SCHOOL BOARD ADVOCACY ON ASVAB AND OPT-OUT POLICIES

By Pat Hanson with Jeanne Turner, Lynn Hamilton and Macgregor Eddy

Two Monterey County school districts successfully passed policies recently, requiring that recruiter release option 8 be applied district-wide when the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test is given to students. That option protects families from having students’ personal information -- including name, address, phone number and social security number -- sent to military recruiters. Salinas Union High School District (SUHSD) -- an area heavily targeted for military recruitment because of low academic achievement, high levels of poverty and ethnicity -- passed this policy in September 2008, and Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD) did the same in February 2009.

The MPUSD Board of Education is also currently working to alter the emergency contact card that parents must sign in order for students to be registered in district high schools. Three YES/NO check-boxes are being proposed in addition to two existing categories that require permission for a child to be interviewed or to be photographed for media purposes. These check-boxes would give or withhold permission for students’ personal information to be sent to military recruiters, institutions of higher education and/or prospective employers.

What steps did local peace and social justice activists take to accomplish this? What did they learn that could be useful in other communities? Below is a synthesis of the major lessons and suggestions they would make for other communities.

PEOPLE:

Sometimes clichés are true. “Do your research,” “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that counts,” and “Befriend the secretaries and the custodians” -- these tactics actually work if you do careful relational organizing as part of your strategy.

Find activists who know the inside of school districts. In MPUSD, Jeanne Turner, a recently retired teacher, was the leading ASVAB policy change advocate. During her 37 years in the district, she’d known and even worked closely with some of the present board members, so she could predict who would be helpful or obstructive. Lynn Hamilton in Salinas was also retired with more than eight years of experience in the district and another ten years in a nearby district. Both were able to get critical information about the time, energy and money it could take to implement changes. Turner’s former school secretary provided critical information, as did the data entry person.

Understanding school board members' needs and concerns can help you achieve what you want. Remember, they are elected officials who volunteer for the often overwhelming amount of work they do for a variety of personal and political reasons.

Find the best spokespersons to approach specific board members.

Work through friendly teachers first. Even if principals may be allies in principle, they tend to be more cautious. Experienced teachers and former board members can suggest tips for reaching difficult board members and may know which ones to avoid.

Put yourself in the shoes of school counselors, administrators and superintendents. Remember, they’re just doing their job.

TIMING:

Get materials out early, especially when board members are not pressed with deadlines on other major issues. MPUSD letters and information packets went out in the slow time between Thanksgiving and the holiday season. This was done purposely, knowing that they would most likely be put aside and not read immediately, but could be referred to later.  SUHSD materials were delivered to board members in mid-spring, with the target time for board meetings in June through August.

Don’t press for a specific date -- let the board determine the timeline. Choose the time allotted for testimony on non-agenda items as your first entry point. The MPUSD activists did not mention a specific date that they wanted their item to be placed on the agenda. They read a carefully constructed three-minute statement at the December 15 board meeting that reminded them of the packets they had received two weeks earlier.

Listen at board meetings first before deciding what to ask for and when. Observe and learn how to speak and get on the agenda. Jeanne Turner was the only advocate in the audience for the first meeting after she’d sent packets to the board. “When I looked at this (referring to the first proposed policy change) I thought, I have accomplished nothing! Silly me. I thought I had done such a great job of sending everything out with my November 14th letter, that the whole thing (policy) would be approved at once. I had no idea what this was going to entail. However, I did listen to the board discussion. That pointed me in the direction I had to go.”

It will take time for your message to make an impact. Be patient and persistent and commit to following through.

Devise strategies for specific impact. Have several speakers, each covering one aspect of your issue at each meeting you sign up for. If well rehearsed, they can provide a powerful, coherent presentation supporting your points.

Re-inform board members often and incrementally. Phone follow-up is best done by activists the board members know and can trust.

Schedule a meeting with the superintendent only after you are well prepared with anticipated arguments. Have specific, one-liner points of what you want, why, and how this will help him/her. Many superintendents worry that federal funding from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) will be suspended if ASVAB test results and/or personal student information are not sent to the military and institutions of higher education. They need be able to visualize, perhaps with an annotated copy of the NCLB law itself (such as MPUSD used), the provisions for opting out so they fully understand that this is not the case. (Note: “prospective employers” is not a category for receiving student contact information under NCLB, but many districts include it among opt-out categories.)

Be fully informed on legalities, including specific annotated copies of laws or board policies and referral numbers of an attorney for back-up. SUHSD advocates had an attorney that worked with them pro bono.

INFORMATION/THEMES/LANGUAGE:

Make educational packets thorough and clear. Early in the process, present board members with paper copies explaining the NCLB opt-out requirements and options for the ASVAB. This lays the groundwork for discussion at future board meetings during which confusion is sure to take place and can then be addressed. MPUSD activists hand-delivered packets to the home address of each board member that included a personalized cover letter.

Right to privacy is THE essential talking point. Both conservatives and liberals think that providing anyone with social security numbers is dangerous. Conservatives are just fine with sending personal information to the military, but not social security numbers. As it turned out, the most convincing items in MPUSD’s packet were the actual student forms that were included, especially the first two pages of the ASVAB scantrons with columns soliciting students’ personal information and social security numbers.

Don’t in any way come across as anti-military. Your purpose is to make sure that privacy is protected and personal information is given only to those entities approved by the parents.

TACTICS:

Be low profile. Go very low-key on publicity, especially at first. Avoid the media.

Hand-deliver packets of materials in person if possible -- if not, by first-class mail -- to board members’ home addresses. One-on-one contact is best, conducted by trusted, trained allies. Follow up with phone calls to make sure the materials were received.

Research policies and procedures used in other school districts, especially those nearby. Obtain materials used by them as examples. When working with the president of the board who happened to be on the policy sub-committee, concerns arose about the legality of separating the categories on the opt-out form. Before her appointment with the board president, Turner spent time calling school districts in California who already had their categories of options separated. By the time they met, she was able to hand the committee and the superintendent multiple copies of the opt-out forms being used in Whittier Union HSD, Santa Cruz City USD, Berkeley USD, Los Angeles Unified, Santa Rosa and the policy passed in nearby Salinas.

Evaluate and pick crucial entry and delivery points. Work with school board policy subcommittees first to obtain their clarity and perspective. Convincing them can make approval at vote time a slam dunk.

Carefully weigh options for getting information to parents that they are sure to see. The “blue jeans express” -- a term for when students deliver materials home -- is highly unreliable, and mailing is prohibitively expensive, especially right now with budget cuts. In proposing a method for notifying parents about the opt-out right, activists referred to the AB 2994 legislative model that was passed twice by the state assembly, but not signed into law by the governor. This bill, which would have mandated placing the opt-out information on emergency contact cards for each student, was referred to directly in MPUSD’s presentation to the board on December 15.

After the policy is passed, remember to follow up and check on implementation. When Jeanne Turner learned that her superintendent wondered exactly how schools could keep track of the various categories of opt out, she discovered (again from her data entry informant) that there is a section in the district data software system wherein this data can be recorded.

AND FINALLY . . . .

Remember: after the policy is passed, your work is not yet complete! There may need to be a high-level directive that designates someone to be responsible for posting this information. Suspecting that nobody at the high school level had been directed to enter opt-out data that is currently being returned by parents, Turner strongly doubted that anything was being done to keep pupil directory information from going to military recruiters, colleges or prospective employers. She checked with two high school secretaries. Indeed, one school had the opt-out slips that were returned, sitting in a drawer at the high school. Another sent them downtown but doesn't remember to whom!

Don’t take setbacks as a defeat. Remember that once school policy is passed, it can be revisited. Reapply these same principles and keep on keeping on.

The above article originally appeared in the April-June 2009 issue of Draft NOtices, published by Committee Opposed to Militarism & the Draft, www.comdsd.org.

Various documents and letters presented to the Monterrey Peninsula Unified School District are available at www.comdsd.org/Monterey.htm

JROTC Shooting Ranges, San Diego, CA

VICTORY!

By Paula Hoffman-Villanueva

A truly monumental victory against militarism in our schools has been achieved! And for this victory to come from the city of San Diego makes it even more amazing. The Education Not Arms Coalition, after a 1½-year campaign, has succeeded in moving the San Diego Board of Education to ban rifle training on 11 high school campuses. At the board meeting on February 10, after 90 minutes of testimony and discussion, the vote was 3-2 in favor of banning JROTC weapons training. More than 200 students and local activists filled the auditorium with their now-familiar, bright orange “No Weapons Training” signs.

In the summer of 2007, the San Diego-based Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities (Project YANO) was supporting students and others in a struggle to stop the opening of a Marine JROTC program at Mission Bay High School. At the same time, people were learning that a rifle range was to be part of the newly built Lincoln High School campus. When it was discovered that more high schools in San Diego had shooting ranges as part of JROTC, teachers, community activists, parents and students formed the Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC). Community organizations that supported the coalition included Project YANO, UJIMA Institute for Civic Responsibility, Association of Raza Educators, MEChA and AFSC, among others.

The Education Not Arms Coalition chose three initial goals:

  • Stop the placing of students in military science (JROTC) classes without their informed consent.
  • Stop schools from telling parents and students that the class will help them qualify for college, when it won’t.
  • Ban weapons training and JROTC gun ranges in San Diego schools.

The campaign achieved the first two goals when they were incorporated into a directive issued to schools by the district superintendent in the fall of 2008. The third goal was achieved by the school board’s action on February 10, 2009.

The shooting range victory on February 10 was made possible by the election of two new board members, Dr. John Lee Evans and Richard Barrera, who had promised during their campaigns that they would vote to remove shooting ranges. They, along with John de Beck (who had already supported the ENAC demands), constituted the three necessary votes.

An hour prior to the February 10 board meeting, a student-led rally was held outside the board meeting auditorium. Over the past 1½ years, the most exciting aspect of the struggle has been the transformation of a group of energized and inspiring young student activists. In their speeches to the board that evening, after patiently waiting through hours of other agenda items, several students calmly took to the podium (this was their fourth or fifth board meeting). They made incredibly powerful statements; for example:

Anay Barajas, Mission Bay High: “You don’t realize the consequences that gun ranges bring to our communities. We are not here as teenagers looking for trouble. We are here as students looking for the education we deserve. We are looking for action from you, the people who are supposed to care about our education!”

Jonathan Flores, Lincoln High: “A school that teaches students to shoot weapons seems clearly ironic. Our books are the ultimate weapon to succeed, not guns. I also expect the board to uphold the idea that no guns in school means no guns in school!” 

After listening, the school board was generous in its praise of a truly amazing show of student activism:

Board Member John de Beck: “This is one of the best experiences I’ve had. I’m really proud of the leadership you guys have shown and your ability to keep coming back and coming back. It’s been a movement that has grown and it’s very peaceful and you’re very clear in what you’re saying.”

Board Member John Lee Evans: “I am extremely impressed by this fine group of young people. I have an immense amount of respect . . . a group of young people who are committed to education, committed to non-violence and who are also committed to the democratic process in terms of organizing themselves in the community and speaking out.”

Board Member Richard Barrera: “I feel honored as well. I think this was the best political science class I ever sat in. Knowing the students here from the Education Not Arms Coalition are standing up for something bigger than just individual programs. You’re standing up and saying ‘enough.’ You are teaching us. You are giving us hope that despite everything we do up here, we’re going to have a great country going forward because of what I see here tonight.”

In the days leading up to the February 10 vote, and for many days after, hate mail poured in from National Rifle Association members and from military/JROTC supporters. School board members, Project YANO and ENAC all received hate mail. Visits to the Project YANO Web site went from an average of 175 a day to over 1,000 a day. This only made the victory sweeter, having stood up to powerful pro-military and pro-gun forces, like the NRA, and won!

On February 24, under pressure from the JROTC program, the board of education again discussed the shooting ranges. Two board members, Shelia Jackson and Katherine Nakamura, succeeded in convincing John Lee Evans to vote to postpone the closing of the ranges until June, 2009, based on the argument that students need to complete competition commitments the rest of this school year. Once again, for this discussion, ENAC rallied. Speakers came forward with their usual enthusiasm, eloquence and conviction. And although the closure of the ranges was postponed until June, the ban will happen. Of course, the coalition will remain vigilant and monitor the situation, in case there are attempts to reverse the ban.

The ultimate success of the entire Education Not Arms campaign came only after incredible work by all involved -- petitions, community meetings, speeches, rallies, marches, press reports, interviews, letter-writing and many planning meetings. To enjoy the photos, read up on the history of the coalition, hear the speeches, and share in the feeling of pride, please go to www.projectyano.org/educationnotarms/

The above article is excerpted from the April-June 2009 issue of Draft NOtices, published by the Committee Opposed to Militarism & the Draft, http://www.comdsd.org/

Changing Local Laws/ Ordinances

Dave MeserveActivists in Humboldt County, California, in 2007, had experimented with a different approach to regulating military recruitment: a city ordinance introduced via citizen initiative.

The ordinance, which was adopted in the towns of Arcata and Eureka, California, prohibited the recruiting of youths under the age of 18. Following its adoption, the ordinance was immediately challenge by the U.S. government in federal court. U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ruled that laws passed in the Humboldt County cities of Arcata and Eureka in November of 2009 were unconstitutional and invalid.

The Arcata and Eureka laws join a long list of failed attempts to restrict military recruiting. Opponents of recruiting have tried to keep recruiters off college campuses nationwide. Berkeley issued and then rescinded a letter calling Marine recruiters "unwelcome intruders." And the San Francisco school board in 2006 killed the local Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, which some members saw as a recruiting tool, launching a three-year battle that ended last month with JROTC back in place.

The Arcata and Eureka laws represented a new tactic that experts said appeared to have been the first of its kind in America: a counter-recruitment law passed not by a handful of elected activists, but by a plurality of voters.

Many voters in Arcata and Eureka who supported the measures saw the laws not as anti-military, but as an expression of a community's right to set its own rules - particularly relating to children.

Opponents said the laws were unpatriotic, pointlessly quixotic, and imposed a government regulation on a domain that would be better handled by parents.

The laws made it illegal to contact anyone under the age of 18 to recruit that person into the military or promote future enlistment. Minors could still initiate contact with recruiters if they chose.

"The judge said that the question of military recruitment is a subject which must be regulated by the federal government and may not be regulated by states and localities," said Stanford Law School Senior Lecturer Allen Weiner, who read the opinion but did not take part in the case.

Under the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal laws trump state laws on issues the federal government is responsible for, like foreign affairs and national defense.

The cities tried to head off that finding by arguing that the United States is party to international treaties prohibiting the recruiting of children under 17. The treaties, the cities argue, hold equal standing to the supremacy clause, so recruitment aimed at children under 17 - such as posters or recruiter calls - is unconstitutional. - source

For more information on this tactic see: Arcata AND "Youth Protection Act"

Also, visit http://www.stoprecruitingkids.org/

Articles on the web:

Changing School District Policies

School PoliciesActivists in a number of communities across the U.S. have succeeded in gaining restrictions on recruiting at the school district level.

Some school districts are governed by popularly elected boards, others are governed by boards or administrations appointed by city mayors. Each of these can require a different approach.

Here are some recommended links available to better inform you on changing school policies. This is a work in progress and NNOMY will be adding new documents as they are prepared and as policies change that effect enlistment. Check back periodically.

As examples, below are links to accounts written by activists who succeeded in getting policies passed by elected school boards. They contain advice and lessons that can be useful in any campaign directed at a governing board.

Links:

Documents:

Articles on the web:

 


Current Policies and Campaigns

School districts throughout the country are revising their procedures and policies on military recruiting in response to concerns of parents, students, and civic associations such as the National PTA

Generally, these procedures cover four broad areas of concern: Student privacy; Recruiter access to students; Use of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) for recruiting purposes; and Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC).

LINKS TO SAMPLE POLICIES THAT HAVE EITHER BEEN ADOPTED OR PROPOSED

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