No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)





The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was the name given by the Bush administration to their 2001 modification of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Under NCLB, schools and school districts could lose federal funding if they failed to make student contact information available, upon request, to military recruiters and colleges (however, students were allowed to opt out of such releases). This law also required that military recruiters be given the "same access“ to school campuses that is granted to college and employment representatives.

The Obama administration revised this law and renamed it the "Every Student Succeeds Act" (ESSA). The recruiter access provisions remained and were, in fact, made more robust. Instead of all students being able to opt themselves out of schools handing recruiters their information, now only their parents or legal guardians can do so if the students are under 18 years of age.




By requiring schools and school districts to give out student’s information to recruiters by default, instead of giving the parents an option to “opt in” to this, the process is effectively obscured. Parents and legal guardians may ignore the fact that recruiters are in possession of their children’s address, phone number, and name. This gives recruiters the ability to use a sophisticated sales’ pitch in favor of enlistment without a parent’s or legal guardian’s supervision and knowledge. 

This is also facilitated by the “same access” clause, made even more egregious by the fact that it equates military enlistment to job and college recruitment. Although there are purported job training and educational benefits gained by joining the military, there are significant risks which distance a military career from other types of jobs and future opportunities. These risks can include physical harm and psychological injuries (also known as PTSD), as well as not obtaining the benefits which were originally promised in the recruitment pitch.




  • If you are a parent or legal guardian of a person younger than 18 years of age, contact your school to learn about their opt-out policy.
  • If you are a student and are younger than 18, ask your parents or legal guardian to contact the school on your behalf. If you are older than 18, you can submit your own opt-out request to the school.
  • Spread the word! Tell other people in your school, other parents and guardians or write to your community newspaper or school publication.
  • Hand out opt out forms, or ask school authorities (teachers, the principal, counselors) to hand them out.
  • It is legal for schools to adopt a policy restricting the activities of recruiters on campus, as long as the restrictions also apply to college and employment representatives. Such policies have been adopted in some of the nation’s largest school districts. 


Revised 02/20/2020