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Form keeps teens off military's list

By Carolyn Norton

CHAPEL HILL -- Local high schools want to make sure one form stands out among the many permission slips, sign-up sheets and schedules parents receive.

They want parents to see the opt-out form, which allows families to keep their children's contact information off the list schools must give to military recruiters.

"It's not that I am telling them I do not want them to sign up for the military," said Linda Parker, a career counselor at East Chapel Hill High. "I just want them to know that this opt-out form is available."

East, Chapel Hill High, Chatham's Northwood High and other local schools are sending the opt-out forms home in back-to-school packets, putting them on PTA Web sites and placing them in counseling centers. The forms will keep students names' out of the hands of military recruiters -- a move that activists and school districts across the county have pushed for since 2001, when the federal education legislation called No Child Left Behind was signed into law.

Besides requiring schools to have a certain percentage of students passing standardized tests, the law threatens to pull federal education funding from schools that do not provide military recruiters the names, addresses and telephone numbers of high school juniors and seniors.

While the stipulation hasn't caused much controversy locally, it has sparked criticism across the country. The National PTA, for example, has said it would prefer an "opt-in" form, which parents would sign if they want their child's information released.

Protesting the measure

Schools in Seattle, San Francisco and upstate New York also have protested the measure. The school board in Santa Cruz, Calif., adopted a procedure allowing the schools only to release the names of students who have parental permission.

Locally, Parker said that last year only about 10 percent of families sent the opt-out forms in. No one, she said, has really commented to her about them.

"Before we did it, we had one parent call who was just incensed that the military would get the student's name," Parker said. "But that's the law."

At Northwood High, the PTSA makes the form available on a Web site, in the main office and at open houses. PTSA President George Gregor-Holt submitted a column to local papers to make sure parents knew about the forms.

"Military service is a great opportunity for parents," he wrote in the column. "But some parents believe that they would like to safeguard their personal information."

Chapel Hill High also posts the information on its Web site, sends a form to parents and tells families about it at open houses. Susan Brandt, who works in the Career Information Center, said the school began a much more "proactive" effort to tell families about the forms this year. So far, Brandt said, 10 have been returned.

"It's something we should have been doing all along," she said. "It's always been available. We just hadn't been advertising it."

— Carolyn Norton


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