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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Kucinich Wants Law Limiting Military Recruiters In Schools

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Cleveland Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a Democrat running for president on an anti-war platform, signed up last week to cosponsor a measure designed to reduce access military recruiters now have to high school students. The bill, H.R. 1346, amends the No Child Left Behind Act and blocks schools from releasing student information to military officials without parental parental consent.

Chief sponsor Rep. Mike Honda, a California Democrat whose district includes the Silicon Valley, said his measure ensures student information remains private if parents want it that way. Under current law, parents have to opt-out of the recruiting notification program, and many times they fail to fill out the paperwork or don't see it. Honda said he has "greatest respect" for the military but thinks privacy rights trump the Pentagon's recruitment efforts.

The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, and National PTA are supporting the privacy plan. Kucinich is one of 37 congressional cosponsors. Honda's remarks when he filed the bill last week follow:

"Mr. HONDA. Madam Speaker, I rise today to announce the introduction of my bill, the Student Privacy Protection Act.

"The Student Privacy Protection Act is legislation that will restore the privacy rights of children and families that were taken away by a little-known provision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the so-called No Child Left Behind Act.

"Under No Child Left Behind, high schools are required to turn over lists of student contact information to the Department of Defense, which adds this information to an extensive database of children. The Department of Defense claims to need the names, addresses, and phone numbers of high school students for recruiting purposes, because it enables recruiters to contact children directly in their homes and at school, which is often done without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

"As a former high school teacher and principal, I am concerned that the fundamental right of privacy has been taken away from both parents and children. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis defined privacy as 'the right to be left alone.' Families are not being left alone, and their personal, private information is being divulged without their knowledge. Any database of personal information is subject to abuse. A government that was established for the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness has no business collecting extensive personal data about Americans.

"I have the greatest respect for Americans who choose to enter the military, as well as for those in the Armed Forces who engage in the recruiting process. Those efforts, however, should respect the privacy rights of children and their families.'

No Child Left Behind requires schools to give military recruiters the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of students, unless their parents 'opt-out' of the list. Schools are only required to provide one notice of the military recruiting list, so it can be easily overlooked by parents, or perhaps never received. Moreover, language and cultural barriers can prevent understanding of the opt-out process, especially in immigrant communities that are subject to aggressive military recruiting. If parents do not respond, and do not explicitly object to having their child's personal information released to recruiters, it is assumed that they have no objections. Under current law, they must 'opt-out' in order to protect their rights.

The privacy rights of all Americans should be respected. One should not have to ask for these rights. Today, I am reintroducing the Student Privacy Protection Act, which I introduced in the 109th Congress. This legislation will restore the privacy rights of parents and children. The Student Privacy Protection Act will change the military recruitment provision of No Child Left Behind from an 'opt-out'' system to 'opt-in.' Under my bill, families may still choose to 'opt-in' to the recruiting database, but privacy will be respected by default. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the rights of students and the rights of families, by supporting the Student Privacy Protection Act."

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