Published: December 17, 2005
By Joseph Friedrichs
Pilot staff writer

Nearly 200 parents with students at Brookings-Harbor High School (BHHS) followed a statewide trend and chose this fall to keep their childern's identities off limits to military recruiters.

Throughout Oregon, parents have said the choice is about making a statement for a war they oppose. For others, privacy is the issue.

Whatever their reason, the parents of 180 students in the Brookings-Harbor School District told the military "No" and refused to disclose their child's contact information to recruiters. There are approximately 650 students enrolled at BHHS.

For decades, schools have invited military recruiters onto campuses to participate in career days and job fairs. BHHS Principal George Park said he approves of the recruitment on campus.

"Being a patriotic American myself, I have no problem with the recruiters being here," Park said. "I think it's good for our country, and good for our kids."

A little-known provision in the federal No Child Left Behind education act requires schools to hand over the names, addresses and phone numbers of junior and senior students when requested by military recruiters. Though the law refers to all high school students, federal officials have said it applies specifically to juniors and seniors.

According to the No Child Left Behind provision, parents can choose to keep their child's name out of a recruiter's database. Although districts handle the disclosure issue differently, every student at BHHS received an annual form parents could sign if they didn't want recruiters to have access to their child's contact information.

BHHS administrators were unaware of this exemption form until this year, Park said.

If BHHS continues to follow the trend of other schools throughout Oregon, the number of students who opt out will climb annually.

In the Bend-La Pine School District, the numbers have jumped to almost 30 percent of 11th and 12th-graders from 19 percent of those students last year.

That increase reflects what is going on elsewhere in the state. In Portland Public Schools, 47 percent of juniors and seniors had parents who refuse to give information to recruiters.

Already in the 2005-06 school year, a recruiter from every branch of the military has visited BHHS.

These visits consist of loitering in the parking lot and talking with students during the lunch hour.

Park said the recruiters do not use an aggressive approach in their tactics.

"They have a subtle approach," he said. "And subtle can be very effective."

BHHS has an average of six students with each graduating class that join the military, Park said. The U.S. Marines have proven to be the most popular one among BHHS graduates.

Frank Mowery, a senior at BHHS, is set to join the Marines this summer.

"A bunch of my friends were enlisting, so I decided too as well," he said. "I did it for the sake of doing it."

An average of one recruiter for a particular branch of the military visits BHHS per month, Park said.

The recruiters have access to a student's name, address and phone number. Recruiters do not have access to a student's behavioral records, grades or attendance numbers.

Mowery said he has been approached by several recruiters throughout his four years of high school.

"It didn't bother me that they were there," he said. "For the most part they were really laid back."

Gary Stauffer, the public affairs officer for the Army's Portland recruiting office, said a recruiter usually sets up a booth or does a classroom presentation to convey their message.

The Army's last recruiting year, from October 2004 until the end of this September, was "difficult" nationwide, Stauffer said.

The Army doesn't have a historical perspective on whether enlistment numbers typically go up or down during times of war because this is the first sustained conflict since the end of the draft and the beginning of the all-volunteer Army, he said.

Overall, 795 Oregonians enlisted in the Army in fiscal year 2005, up from 750 the year before.

At the Crescent City recruiting station, which sends a representative to BHHS, 19 people enlisted in 2005. A total of seven people joined the year before.

Stauffer said there was no recruiter at the local high schools in the fiscal year 2004, which contributed to the low enlistment.

Park said the military is a great opportunity for graduating high school students for financial reasons.

"It's a chance for a student to raise $50,000 or $60,000 for college," he said.

Jan Krick, the coordinator for a program at BHHS that encourages students to attend college, said she has witnessed the recruiters on campus.

Krick has had encounters with students who are not interested in the Access to Student Assistance Programs In Reach of Everyone (ASPIRE) because they are already enlisted in a branch of the military.

"I can only tell them to be careful," she said.

Park said the recruiters are welcome to BHHS anytime, as long as it doesn't conflict with education.

"We're American citizens here," Park said. "We support the military."

Some parents worry about a recruiter's potentially aggressive tactics or don't want to see a recruiter contact their child without involving the parent. But not signing the military nondisclosure form doesn't mean every student is actively sought out by the military.

Bill Coons, whose son Quincy is a senior at BHHS, said his son has not been a target for the military. Still, Coons said every high school student should join the military.

"I think every graduate should enlist for at least two years," he said. "Most of these kids are not mature enough to conduct themselves in the world that we've created."

The answer to building that maturity, he said, is the military.

"There are a lot of people who have fought and died for what we stand for," he said.

"I think that a person who enlists would appreciate everything that has been done for them in past battles."

Coons himself has never served in any branch of the military.

The final years of high school are very crucial in the future of a young person, Coons said.

"The very worst that the military can do for someone is let them see what they don't want to do," he said.