WHAT IS IT?
"Opt Out" refers to the process defined in the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), later reformed by the Obama administration into the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in which a student’s parent or legal guardian can choose to withhold the student’s contact information (name, address, and telephone number) from being released by their school district or school to military recruiters. Students who are age 18 or older are eligible to opt themselves out. 1 Once an opt-out request is submitted to the school by letter or form, the law states that the school cannot release the student’s contact information to recruiters unless written permission is given by a parent, legal guardian, or the student who is 18 or older.2 A different opt-out request can be sent to the Joint Advertising and Marketing Research Studies headquarters (JAMRS), where information is constantly being collected from other sources by the Department of Defense and given to military recruiters. If a student is 18 or older, they can submit the JAMRS opt-out request. If they are younger than 18, it must be done by their parent or legal guardian.
Schools often have their own opt-out forms that can be used. Sometimes forms are sent home among a stack of papers students get in their first few days, and as a consequence are often overlooked. Whether or not a school has its own opt-out form to use, it must accept your request in whatever form you give them. Schools may give a deadline for opting out during the current school year, usually within a month after school starts.. If an opt-out request is submitted after the deadline, it is legally still valid for any following releases of contact information. Since the law states that contact information cannot be release without written permission after the opt-out request has been submitted, schools cannot legally require annual renewal of the opt-out request.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Although US military service is voluntary, large amounts of personnel are needed to maintain the constant military offensives abroad and the hundreds of US bases located in different places around the world.3 4 The US government spends large sums of money and personnel on recruitment efforts as a result. These efforts include granting recruiters the same access to US high school campuses as university and job recruiters have, and the reliance on aggressive sale strategies to reach recruiting goals. In the process, recruiters often mislead students about the benefits they would receive on enlistment, and often gloss over the truth of what military service and war can be like.
For these reasons, the fact that schools are required to release student’s contact information to third parties is a dangerous overstep of young people’s privacy rights on the part of the government. It gives recruiters one-on-one access to students in which they can present an unchallenged narrative of military life. Although they are given the same access in school campuses as college and job recruiters, a military career is distinctly different from other career or education opportunities. Choosing to enlist in the US military can carry with it a high risk of physical, emotional, and psychological harm, as well as fewer benefits than initially advertised.
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
- 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. Remember: they are required to provide a procedure through which to opt out. If one is not in place, they are required to accept your request in any form availiable.
- 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
- If there is not a policy in your school or school district in place, you can help create one.
- Spread the word! Tell other people in your school, other parents and guardians or write to your local or school paper.
- Hand out opt out forms, or ask school authorities (teachers, the principal, counselors) to hand them out.