Uncle Sam Wants Them

Military recruiters are grabbing student info from local schools without parents' permission

Pletenik says the number of parents requesting that Phoenix Union withhold personal information from the military is "minuscule."

Which's because few parents know that recruiters are routinely siphoning the names and addresses of kids behind mom and dad's backs!

Until I talked to Pletenik, I had no idea whether my opposition to Joey's records being handed over would make any difference. Turns out, parents and students can legally prohibit school districts from handing over personal information to recruiters.

That is, if school districts don't lie about the rules for disclosure.

I discovered that three of the Valley's largest high school districts are misleading parents and students into believing that the only way to withhold personal information from the military is to withhold the same information from practically every other entity.

Phoenix Union, for example, provides an "opt out" form in its student handbook distributed at the beginning of the academic year that allows students to have personal information withheld. If parents see the form and sign it, the information will not only be withheld from the military, but from the school yearbook, colleges, scholarship organizations and athletic and student-activity rosters.

No wonder hardly any Phoenix Union parent who trips over the "opt out" form is signing it.

The situation's the same at Tempe Union High School District. Last year, fewer than 400 students out of 6,400 10th- and 11th-graders turned in forms preventing the release of the information.

Kathy Bareiss, community relations director for Mesa Public Schools, says her district provided personal information on more than 9,300 sophomores and juniors to military recruiters this year.

"Only a handful of kids opted out," Bareiss says, by returning a form provided in the student handbook removing their names from almost all activity lists.

Next year, Bareiss says Mesa will make a form available that allows parents to withhold students' names from military recruiters and universities -- not from practically every list.

"There is no way to separate [the military and universities]," she says.

Which, of course, is bullshit, as well as against the law.

The No Child Left Behind Act states:

"A secondary school student or the parent of the student may request that the student's name, address and telephone listing . . . not be released without prior written parental consent, and the local educational agency or private school shall notify parents of the option to make a request and shall comply with any request."

My advice to parents is to forget about the forms provided by school districts. If you want a form to present to your child's district that blocks his information from getting handed over to the military but allows it to be given to the likes of colleges and scholarship funds, go to http://www.militaryfreezone.org/opt_out.

The time to act is now.

An avalanche of reports have come out about illegal and unethical techniques used by recruiters across the country to shore up sagging enlistment numbers.

Abuses have become so widespread that the Army was forced to take the unprecedented step of suspending all recruiting operations nationwide on May 20 so that recruiters could undergo special training.

At the same time the Army's buffing up its recruiting pitch, the Arizona Counter-Recruitment Coalition is holding a poetry slam featuring spoken-word artists from local high schools. The coalition says the poets will "spit truth about military recruitment and draft resistance."

This "training" session begins at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 8, at the Counter Culture Café at 2330 East McDowell Road in Phoenix.

Check it out. I'll be there.


Good news keeps coming on the state's effort to dislodge a fundamentalist Mormon polygamist sect from control of the Colorado City public schools.

On May 24, a police task force raided the Colorado City Unified School District headquarters in northern Arizona north of the Grand Canyon and seized the district's financial records and dozens of computers. Police removed enough equipment from district offices to fill a full-size rental truck.

The raid uncovered "several new investigative leads" that could result in criminal charges against top school administrators, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard tells me.

The search warrant, which was unsealed on May 27, states that school Superintendent Alvin Barlow, business manager Jeffery Jessop and assistant business manager Oliver Barlow are targets of a state criminal investigation alleging misuse of public funds.

The raid comes 25 months after I exposed widespread financial abuses at the Colorado City school district ("The Wages of Sin," April 10, 2003).

Police sources say investigators discovered evidence indicating that school district property was being used to conduct private business.

Investigators, for example, seized surveying equipment from the back of a district-owned Ford F-350, 4X4 crew cab assigned to Jessop, who operates a private surveying business on the side.

Police also discovered unopened cans of beer in Jessop's truck. Jessop, like Alvin Barlow and Oliver Barlow, is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church, which forbids alcohol consumption.

Investigators are focusing on allegations that the school district diverted large amounts of public money into unknown activities.

Meg Pollard, an attorney general's investigator specializing in school fraud, states in an affidavit that the district set up a bank account that cleared large transactions that required -- but never received -- the approval of Mohave County schools Superintendent Mike File.

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