There's one piece of paper that's getting more attention this year as parents sift through back-to-school packets: The opt-out form - a way to keep family contact information off the list that public schools must make available to military recruiters.
A wide variety of activists - including teens, parents, teachers, lawyers, and clergy - have been mobilizing this summer to draw a clearer line in the sand against the military's access to students:
• Local groups have lobbied school boards to create better forms spelling out families' choices for release of contact information - allowing them, for instance, to give information to colleges but not the military. National PTA, the parent- teacher association, is using its network of 26,000 chapters to spread the word about privacy and opt-out rights.
• In Congress, Rep. Mike Honda (D) of California and more than 50 cosponsors have put forward a bill that would amend the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law to create an opt-in system, so schools would give out contact information only for students who want to hear from recruiters.
• Under the umbrella terms of "truth in recruiting" or "counter-recruiting," community groups have sponsored workshops on everything from the legal details of military contracts to the options for claiming conscientious-objector status. And student activists have been gathering support for their efforts to set up tables in proximity to military recruiters at school to offer alternative information.
Students are indeed leading the charge in some cases, but "unlike Vietnam, I think now much of the push is coming from parents," says Kim Redigan, a teacher in Detroit and a member of Finding Alternatives to Military Enlistment.
"There's really an effort on the part of adults to get the word out to young people that they need to explore carefully what they're told by the military.... It's not to coerce young people to be antiwar, but to help them make well-informed decisions."
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