A campaign to end military involvement in our schools.
What is Stop Recruiting Kids?
Our Stop Recruiting Kids campaign seeks to put limits on school recruiters through working with students, teachers, and school administrators. We want to send a message to the U.S. military: you have no place in our schools. While plenty of post-graduation options are made available to students, none of these options include putting your mental and physical health on the line to fight in unjust wars. Federal legislation gives military recruiters a green light to collect students’ private information, show up in their classes, after their classes, and at their front doors. While our dream is to change federal legislation, right now we’re simply limiting recruiter access in any way we can. Here’s how:
- Make sure all students have access to an “opt-out” form. If signed by a parent, the student’s private information cannot be shared with military recruiters.
- Advocate for schools to maintain a written policy regarding recruiter visits that is sent home to students and families for transparency.
- Ensure schools keep a careful record of the frequency and duration of recruiter visits and require staff supervision during each of these visits for accountability.
- Educate students and families on the risks of enlistment and share alternatives to military service with students who are considering enlistment.
- Establish policies that prohibit JROTC program & the administration of the ASVAB test at high schools. These military programs often work covertly as recruiting tools.
Why our work matters
Thousands of young people enlist in the U.S. military every year. With promises of scholarships, a chance to see the world, and an opportunity to earn honor and respect, the military crafts a compelling narrative. Most recruits sign on to an eight year contract, and some sign this binding contract as young as 17 years old. It is illegal for teenagers to take out loans, buy a home, and consume alcohol– with good reason. Yet, committing eight years of their life to the U.S. military, a decision that could result in death, is both advertised and encouraged.
Military recruiters are dining at school lunch tables, coaching after school sports, and messaging students online. It’s no wonder some children choose to enlist as soon as they turn 17. Information directly from the military reveals recruiters are encouraged to engage with students as young as 12 years old.
The presence of military recruiters in schools is not new, but since the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) of 2001 granted the Department of Defense access to public schools as enlistment sites, their presence has increased drastically. The interaction between school youth and the most powerful and well-financed institution in the world merits monitoring. The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice is one of the only organizations in the country actively working to address militarism in schools.
The history of our work
Since the 1960s, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) of Western Massachusetts, now The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice (TRC), has engaged and educated students about peaceful post-graduation alternatives to military service, including community colleges and universities, volunteer opportunities, and labor apprenticeships. Our legacy began with our founder, Frances Crowe, and her commitment to providing draft counseling during the Vietnam War.
Over our years of involvement in the school system, TRC realized (1) we did not have comprehensive data about military recruitment in high schools across Western Massachusetts, and (2) we needed to bring information about recruiter involvement to light, so that parents, school committee members, and others are aware of the enhanced presence of military recruiters in schools, the risks associated with military service, and the extent of disclosed information given to the military by their children and their schools.
For the past five years, TRC has published an annual report recording the involvement of the U.S. military in Western Massachusetts high schools. We started compiling data on military recruitment in 2012 by sending simple, one page requests to public high schools for information about the frequency of recruiter involvement. These went ignored by most schools. After submitting our inquiries in the form of Massachusetts Public Records Act requests, we received more responses. Responses collected between 2012-2015 were compiled into the first edition of Military Recruitment in Western Massachusetts High Schools. Each year, we repeated the process of submitting public record requests to schools to obtain information on recruiter involvement in the most recent school year. With every year we do the report, the more responses we receive. This report is just the beginning of holding both our schools and the military accountable. Check out our latest edition here.
In 2018, with more staff and resources, we launched our Stop Recruiting Kids campaign. In addition to our annual report, we are working on the ground with student groups making sure every student knows the risks of military service and their rights when talking to a recruiter. This is just the beginning of a new chapter in our work. And we need your help. Sign up below!