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AISD tightens military access to students

Monday, November 2, 2015 by Courtney Griffin

Military recruiters seeking to sign up future servicemen and -women will have less access to Austin Independent School District students than they did one year ago. On Monday, board members unanimously adopted new language in the district’s visitors policy that clarifies exactly where military recruiters can and cannot go.

In accordance with federal laws, schools are required to disclose student names, addresses and telephone numbers to military recruiters on request. However, middle and high school students or parents can stipulate that personal information remain undisclosed unless parents provide written consent. State and federal laws also allow military recruiters the same access to high school students as other organizations promoting jobs or career possibilities. So often, military recruiters will stand alongside other organizations at job fairs.

However, AISD media relations coordinator Jacob Barrett told the Austin Monitor that there have been situations in which military recruiters have acted more like baseball or football scouts rather than staying behind the familiar cafeteria table handing out brochures.

“There have been a few cases in past years of recruiters showing up at extracurricular activities when students wished to not be approached,” Barrett said. “But those were isolated incidents that were addressed and corrected.”

Nevertheless, Barrett said the district wanted to ensure that AISD had a policy in place to protect students to the highest degree. The new policy now states that military recruiters cannot attend school-sponsored events without a principal’s authorization, are not allowed to meet off-campus with students under 18 without parental consent submitted to a campus administrator, cannot directly ask students for contact information and cannot ask students for contact information as a stipulation for awards or gifts. Principals are allowed to deny campus access to military recruiters if any policies are violated.

In addition, the board approved stronger guidelines for students who take the military’s admissions and placement test. Previously, all students who took the test had their scores sent to military recruiters. Now, students can choose whether to make their scores available.

The changes sat well with several members of Sustainable Options for Youth, who spoke during Monday’s public comment portion of the meeting. Sustainable Options for Youth is a nonprofit organization that tables at AISD school events to promote nonmilitary options for students after high school.

Susan Van Haitsma, a member of the organization, praised trustees’ new additions to the previous 2006 policy.

“In the years since then, we have become aware of several loopholes that have allowed recruiters to contact students even if their parents or guardians have requested otherwise,” she said. “Even more seriously, we learned that over a four-year period, three military recruiters in Austin were charged in sexual assault cases with area high school students.”

Van Haitsma said that Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago school districts have policies similar to AISD’s new one. Barrett said the district is not aware of any AISD students who were sexually assaulted by military recruiters.

Update: Though he was not aware of it when this article was first published, Barrett clarified to the Austin Monitor that Sustainable Options for Youth provided information to the AISD Board of Trustees about sexual assault cases involving AISD students in 2014 which led to the policy change. Both of those assault cases were also covered in the Austin American-Statesman at the time.

District 3 Trustee Ann Teich thanked the speakers for their passion for limiting the reach of military recruiters within AISD schools.

Instructional Training Exercises at RTC Great Lakes” by U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres. (RELEASED) – [1] from [2]. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

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