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Military recruiters need to abide by the law during efforts

Most people my age like simplicity. Although not the sole reason, we played a large part in why “American Idol” almost claimed more viewers than President George Bush’s State of the Union speech. We want unfussy answers to the most complicated questions in life. Why did we go into Iraq? Oil. Martin O’Malley or Robert Ehrlich for governor? O’Malley — he’s better looking. Who is Scooter Libby? A cartoon character … duh.

I’m exaggerating to some degree (I hope). I suppose paying attention to nuclear weapons in Iran or civil war in Iraq isn’t all that important until you can vote. But sometimes I wonder just how many high school students, and parents for that matter, are aware of the military’s spying eyes in their backyard.

Signed into law in 2002, the No Child Left Behind Act slashes the privacy of public school students. Tucked into the law is a provision giving military recruiters the right to access school campuses and students’ phone numbers and addresses. Schools that refuse are denied federal funding.

Although the law provides an opt-out alternative, many schools fail to notify parents of such an option. Meanwhile, military recruiters are handed student directories giving them access to millions of young Americans. Recruiters no longer need set up a table with pamphlets. Instead, they can inundate students with junk mail that portray young soldiers living to their full potential. Or they can lower themselves to the rank of a telemarketer and interrupt dinner conversations. The five honorable military branches ought not tarnish their rich history with such desperate methods.

Although the military argues that they provide a career pathway for a large portion of students, just as colleges and universities, and should have similar access, the undeniable facts are that they are dramatically different. The military discriminates against gays and lesbians — a policy that if practiced by an educational institution would draw catcalls from across the country. Also, in only a matter of years, there has been a surge in abuse by military recruiters.

Since 1996, 722 recruiters have been accused of rape or sexual misconduct. A report by the Government Accountability Office found a 50 percent increase in recruiter abuses from 2004 to 2005, from falsifying documents to sexual abuse. Allegations of maltreatment increased from 4,400 to 6,500, confirmed cases from 400 to 630, criminal violations from 30 to 70. The report went on to say that these numbers were most likely “underestimations,” considering not all branches of the military record allegations.

I don’t remember the last time I heard about the University of Maryland intimidating an applicant so he or she would attend or a Towson University admissions counselor using sexual innuendo to lure a prospective student.

Although my parents chose to opt-out, signed the correct form and turned it into the school, it doesn’t seem to have mattered. Somehow an officer at a local military recruitment center stumbled across my address and sent me his card and an invitation to give him a call to learn more about a future serving my country. I’ve chosen not to.

To the 7,500 recruiters present in the United States: Thank you for your service, and by all means, set up tables at school so that students can stop by if interested. But please follow the law.

Justin Snow is an editorial page intern at The Baltimore Examiner. He can be reached at jsnow@baltimoreexaminer.com.

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