Even the Pentagon doesn’t deny it anymore: Military recruiters have become downright abusive to American teenagers. This week, all across the country, the Pentagon was forced to stop military recruitment activities for an entire day to try to deal with the backlog of complaints about harassment and abuse by military recruiters. In short, military recruiters have been anything but a welcome presence in American neighborhoods.
The newspapers tell us of one recruiter who told a teenage boy that he would be arrested if he did not show up to a military recruiting center and agree to sign up. One of our readers tells us of a military recruiter who was approaching teenagers with mental illness and telling them to lie on their applications about their prescriptions to anti-depressants like Prozac. Repeated, threatening calls from military recruiters at all hours of the day and night have become a part of life for American families with teenage children. Recruiters have a terrible track record of downright lying to teenagers and their parents – in one case, a teenager was told that he would get training as an auto mechanic if he signed up, and instead was sent to be a prison guard at Abu Ghraib, without any training in how to do the job. Military recruiters have even convinced some teenagers to become child soldiers, fighting before they’re even old enough to legally smoke cigarettes.
Yet, the Bush Administration has pushed to give military recruiters new, unprecidented powers to get quick access to kids, whether parents are aware of it or not. Part of President Bush’s disastrous No Child Left Behind legislation required public high schools to give personal information about their students to military recruiters. It was also made illegal to refuse permission to come onto public school campuses to harass children.
The same Republicans who are refusing to allow high school students learn the facts about sex are forcing high school students to endure harassment and abusive pressure from military recruiters to get into uniform and be instructed on how to shoot people with guns. That’s a cruel double standard.
If you’re a high school student or the parent of a high school student, there is something you can do about this problem. A coalition of organizations has created a campaign called Leave My Child Alone – designed to help American families to protect their teenagers from harassment and abuse by military recruiters.
On June 1, just a week from tomorrow, there will be special Leave My Child Alone house parties in communities across America. At these house parties, people can learn how to opt out of military recruitment programs, and how to lobby their school boards to resist the efforts of unscrupulous schemes of military recruiters eager to deceive American teenagers in order to meet their quotas. Visit the Leave My Child Alone web site to find a Leave My Child Alone house party – and if there isn’t any house party going on near you, find out how to host one yourself.