No Army, then no photo in yearbook
Ohanian Comment: Maybe this is the kind of policy get when you hire a retired Air Force major general as your superintendent. He also brought X26 tasers to the schools, units putting out 50,000 volts for 10 seconds.
Just so happens that John Fryer's job before coming to the Duval school district seven years ago (and lauded by the Broad Foundation and others as an out-of-the-box leader) was head of the National War College. No longer in Duval, Freyer now works for the National Center on Education and the Economy, Marc Tucker's outfit.
By Beth Kormanik
Buried within the federal No Child Left Behind Act is a provision that requires school districts to give personal information about students to military recruiters. Parents can choose to keep that information private but some local groups say school districts make that too difficult.
Duval County parents who want to keep their children from military recruiters face an all-or-nothing decision. They can either approve the release of personal information to recruiters or give up all public recognition including being pictured in the yearbook and listed in sports programs and the honor roll.
"If I want to opt out of the military, I have to opt my child out of existence," said Bill Armstrong of Wage Peace, a group that challenged the policy. "That's not really in the spirit of compliance when there's that kind of negative result just trying to exercise their privacy rights."
It's all because of a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act that requires public high schools to hand over the student names, addresses and telephone listings to military recruiters who want the information. School districts that fail to do so risk losing federal education dollars.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., inserted the provision into the No Child act -- a law about education standards.
Military recruiters applaud the law. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Daniel Elkins of Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio said it gives them "access to students who might not otherwise have known about job training or educational opportunities that the Air Force provides."
Parents or students who do not want personal information given to military recruiters may ask schools to keep that information private. Policies to do this vary by district but usually involve writing a letter to a principal or a district official. Schools usually collect this information at the beginning of the school year.
But the group Wage Peace has pressured school boards in Duval and Clay County to change their policies to ensure that parents know they have the right to withhold their children's information from military recruiters.
The Jacksonville chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also has contacted the Duval County school system about the issue.
Duval County notifies parents at the beginning of the school year about its policy for giving out personal information. Parents have three options. They can approve the release of student information, restrict it to the military and colleges and universities only or they can prohibit the release of any personal information whatsoever.
But the last option has meant students would also be kept out of the yearbook, sports programs and listings of honors and awards.
Armstrong thinks parents should have the option to simply opt out of the military aspect.
"I'm not necessarily anti-military," said Armstrong, a former Army lieutenant colonel with four adult children, including an Air Force F-15 pilot. "I want the county to comply with the law and I don't want our children exposed to heavy military recruiting practices when there's a chance of them going to Iraq and getting their legs blown off."
Duval County School Board Chairwoman Nancy Broner said she doesn't support the blanket opt-out policy.
"If that is somehow the case, we need to definitely correct that," she said. "It's not our intent to make it tough on parents to take advantage of their proper opportunities. If in fact it's too cumbersome for parents, we need to improve the process."
Duval County authorities believe the policy was in compliance with the law but have agreed to create a new option to let parents opt out of only military recruiting. Parents will learn of the option when they receive report cards in the next couple of weeks, said Ed Pratt-Dannals, associate superintendent for curriculum and instructional services.
He said the district will make it a permanent change starting next year.
That's the way Putnam County handles the opt-out provision, Assistant Superintendent Phyllis Criswell said. Parents learn about their privacy options through letters sent to their homes or in school newsletters.
In St. Johns County, parents must send a letter to their child's school to opt out of military recruiting. About 3 percent of the district's high school students do that, said Tom Schwarm, director of student services.
Clay County will make it easier for parents to opt out of military recruiting after receiving complaints at a recent School Board meeting, said Lyle Bandy, Clay's director of secondary education.
In Duval County, Broner said she has asked the district's lawyers to suggest ways to better communicate the opt-out procedure to parents.
Armstrong has some ideas. He would like each high school's Web site to describe the law and parents' options. He also thinks principals should be knowledgable about the law.
"All we want is everybody to know that their child's information is going to the military and know they have the chance to opt out," he said.