February 25, 2009

"opt in" vs "opt out" letter exchange about Rochester School policy and military recruiters

Dear VFP Friends,
As you all know, the Rochester School Board will have a hearing at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) on replacing the current "opt-in" policy, for which we fought three years ago, with the old "opt out" policy that puts the burden on parents (most of whom are inadequately informed) to keep their children's private info out of the hands of predatory military recruiters.

I hope you all will plan to go and
make clear that this is NOT about being anti-military, but rather about the right of parents to maintain control over who receives personal info about their children, and about not allowing the military to determine school policy. If you plan to speak, you MUST sign up by noon Thursday at (585) 262-8525. Even if you don't plan to speak, it would be great if you could show up to support those who do. And if you DO go, please wear your uniform (or at least your VFP hat) so that it is clear to the Board that we are not anti-military. If you read the following exchange, you'll see why that's important....

I wish I could be there with you.
Best regards to all,
Vicki Ryder

Yesterday, I sent a letter to Ms. Cynthia Elliott, chair of the Board's Policy Committee, which said in part:
"We ask for your strong leadership in protecting Rochester students' right to privacy. Students who are interested in military service have ample opportunities to (gain that) information. We believe that a career in the military is a life-changing decision that should be made with full, factual information without any undue pressure from overly aggressive recruitment tactics or abuses. Please retain the current policy."
It is obvious that she does not understand the issue, because this is what she sent back:
"...I submit to you that I don't see the harm in having the Military contacting our students to consider as a career opportunity the armed services. There have been men and women who love this country so much that they are willing to give their lives for you and me. There also are those men and women who have chosen to be police officers and firefighters knowing that these careers are high risk and life threatening. But we have citizens that choose these fields everyday. You or I many not choose these high risk life threatening positions as career choices, but their (sic) are citizens who do. I don't think that you would disagree with me that our communities and nation need protecting. These citizens who choose these professions are the ones who protect our communities so that you and I can live in safety. If our students in fact consider the military as a career opportunity, we should be honored."

My answer to her follows:
Dear Ms. Elliott,
Thank you for your prompt response to my e-mail message. I'm afraid, however, that you miss the point entirely.

The question I raised is NOT about whether or not the military provides a noble service for our country. (My husband is a Vietnam veteran who served admirably upon his graduation from high school.) We believe that students should, indeed, have the freedom to select a career in the military if they so choose. What we are objecting to is the School District's blind obedience to a Federal policy that makes available personal information about students to military recruiters who have proven to be belligerent and unscrupulous in their recruitment practices, and that effectively keeps parents from being adequately informed of their options in this matter.

There are many ways that students can be of service to their country. As you point out, they can become police officers or fire fighters, or forest rangers or teachers or health care providers. They can drive trucks to transport goods from one place to another, or pick fruit for our tables. But in none of these careers do we have recruiters hounding students, calling them at home (often more than once a week), lying to them about the dangers they will face and the benefits they will receive.

You have written that you "don't see the harm in having the Military contacting our students to consider as a career opportunity the armed services." As someone who has made a careful study of the current practices of our military recruiters, I can tell you that there often is great harm done by today's recruiters who are not always truthful with the young students they pursue. Much like used car salesmen working on commission, these recruiters, who receive a bonus for each person they recruit, deceive our young men and women into thinking that they will receive full college tuition, good jobs, medical care, and other benefits, which more often than not never are received. They neglect to tell our young people of the dangers involved in modern combat, including exposure to depleted uranium, the potential for horrific physical and psychological harm, and -- for women -- the high rates of sexual harassment and rape in the military. They neglect to tell them of the staggering rates of suicide and homelessness among returning veterans, or of the many other avenues opening up to them for college funding and job training.

Students who wish to pursue a military career can enlist at any recruitment station, on line, or at any of the many other venues such as shopping malls where recruiters ply their trade. They do not need to come into our schools. As those entrusted to guide the education of our youth, the members of the City School Board must take seriously their obligation to be sure that students and their parents be fully and truthfully informed when making life-and-death decisions such as these. For this reason, I urge you to give more careful consideration to our position, and not just assume that we are "anti-military." To do that is to trivialize the very real concerns we have for our young people.

Most sincerely,
Vicki Ryder

Her response (in full):
I maintain my position.
photos of our fallen soldiers from IVAW

PLEASE go tomorrow night and set this poor woman straight!
As Sen. Moynihan used to say,
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they're not entitled to their own facts."
Thanks, Friends!

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