Western Mass High Schools: Failure to Respond

With public record requests incomplete and unanswered, recruiter involvement in Western Mass high schools remains unknown.

It should be no secret that military recruiters are active in our children’s high schools. They are talking to students in the cafeteria, running JROTC programs outside of class, and demanding students’ personal information from school officials (information they have a right to under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001). Recruiters are present in school, after school, and, more recently, online.

Previous research shows a plain and simple truth: military recruiters lie. They actively conceal risks regarding mental health, job insecurity, and sexual trauma. They make false promises of bonuses, job opportunities, and free money for college through private phone numbers and social media. The interaction between school youth and the most advanced and well-financed institution in the world merits monitoring. We must hold the military accountable.

On October 18, 2018, The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice sent a public record request to 56 high schools in Western Massachusetts for documents related to the US military’s involvement with minors. The records requested include information regarding the distribution of student information to the Armed Forces, the dates and protocols for recruiter visits to the school, recruiter involvement in and outside of school, the presence of JROTC programs, and administration of the ASVAB test.

The request to local high schools marks the beginning of our 4th report on military involvement in Western Massachusetts high schools (find the 3rd edition here). And for the 4th year, one troubling consistency remains: high schools are not keeping proper documentation of military involvement with our children.

By state law, school officials have 10 business days to respond to a public record request. As of November 26, 2018, 56% of these high schools failed to respond. Out of the schools that have responded, 15% provided incomplete information. Moreover, some schools actively claimed that they do not keep records of their correspondence with military officials, nor do they record recruiter visits. Agawam High School officials reported the following:

While various branches may request a list of student demographic information, we do not maintain copies of the requests once they are responded to. Similarly, various recruiters do come into our school during the lunch period and will have a table with information set up in the hallway for any interested students to visit and obtain information if they wish. We do not maintain a listing of those dates, nor do we inventory the materials that are offered.  While all visitors sign in/out of the building, they do not all necessarily identify that they are here on military business, so it would be extremely difficult to obtain an accurate listing.

The implications of poorly kept records are disturbing. There should be no ambiguity about when military recruiters are present in a school building and what these recruiters are saying to minors. With no accountability, children as young as 14 years old may be exposed to life-altering lies for the sake of recruiting quotas and senseless wars.   Failure to properly keep these records is irresponsible and illegal.

With 10 business days long passed, The Resistance Center is sending notices to schools that did not fulfill our request thoroughly and schools that failed to respond to our request at all. These notices will go out today: November, 28, 2018.

We continue to ask that high school administrators keep careful and diligent records of the military’s presence at their schools. The lives of our children may very well be at stake.

We call on all concerned students, parents, school members, and community members to hold school officials accountable. We are looking for people from all around Western Massachusetts to demilitarize our children’s spaces through education and advocacy. Contact us to get involved: contact@theresistancecenter.org.