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School recruiters meet resistance

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The procedure didn't satisfy the US Department of Defense.

On July 2, it issued a joint letter with the Department of Education that read, "Contrary to an 'opt-in' process, the referenced law requires an 'opt out' notification process, whereby parents are notified and have an opportunity to request the information not be disclosed." In other words, an unreturned or missing consent form should indicate that a parent wanted his or her child's information given to military recruiters, and not the other way around.

Since parents and students often don't return school forms in a timely manner, "that's what the issue is really about," says Josh Sonnenfeld, student organizer of the current "opt out" campaign in Santa Cruz.

Sonnenfeld, who's trying to get all parents and students to send back their forms by the district's Dec. 19 deadline, says the military relies on the default procedure to increase its access to more student names.

Rather than risk losing federal funding for noncompliance (San Francisco, for instance, could lose $36 million), school districts are changing their consent forms to meet the government's demands.

But some dissenting school districts are protesting even as they comply, inviting antiwar groups to speak at their campuses. School officials in Eugene, Ore., have put a disclaimer on their consent forms that reads, "[We] do not support or endorse the Federal Law requiring information to be provided to military recruiters, but will comply with Federal Law."

San Francisco's response to the law, however, has now raised another issue. Back in November, when the city's school board approved a new consent form, school officials allowed students to complete and sign their forms in their own homerooms as a way to ensure that every form got returned. Parents eventually received their own consent forms through the mail - but, according to district procedures, if the parents' and child's responses on the consent forms differed from one another, any "No" response would override a "Yes" response.

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