Bushwick Students Protest Military Recruiting in Their Schools (NYC Indymedia)

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Tue Nov 5 14:37:24 MST 2002


Bushwick Students Protest Military Recruiting in Their Schools
by * 4:29am Tue Nov 5 '02


Two recent stories about protests by Bushwick high school students
against the violation of their privacy by military recruiters.

Students at two Brooklyn high schools told a Navy commander to shove
off after he declared that most of them aren't fit to serve their
country.

Cmdr. Edward Gehrke, recruiting chief for the New York City region,
wrote in a letter published yesterday that most of the students at
Bushwick Outreach Center and Bushwick High School can't pass a Navy
qualifying exam. "And most have too many drug and/or police issues to
even be considered for enlistment," he wrote.

The commander was responding to an
article about a group of students who had protested the city's
handling of a new law that gives college and military recruiters
access to student addresses and phone numbers. The students charged
the city Education Department didn't do enough to inform parents how
to request that the personal information be kept private.

Gehrke stood by the letter yesterday, saying only four of the 209
students from the two schools who have tried to enlist in the Navy
since January 1999 have qualified. The others, he said, failed an
entrance test, had too many run-ins with the law or admitted using
too many drugs.

Students and teachers lashed out at Gehrke for smearing their schools.

"The commander thinks that Bushwick High School students are too
stupid to go into the military," said Aida Feliciano, 16, a Bushwick
High 10th-grader. "We're not too stupid. We're too smart."

Indhira Reyes, 18, a Bushwick Outreach senior, urged Gehrke to see
the schools for himself. "If he's a commander, he shouldn't be afraid
to come into the neighborhood," she said. Brooklyn Schools

Superintendent Charles Majors called Gehrke's letter a "total
outrage" and urged the students to dismiss his statements. "Ignore
this guy," Majors said. "They know the job in front of them, and
they're heading in the right direction."

Gehrke, who was born in Queens and reared in Huntington, L.I., has
been recruiting chief for four years and said he knows about the
troubled history of Bushwick high schools. He said he wrote his
letter because he didn't understand why students were protesting the
armed forces' harmless recruiting efforts. "If the price of freedom
is to get a letter or a phone call, and that's too high a price to
pay, then maybe you have a legitimate beef," he said.

Gehrke's letter caused some discomfort for Navy brass. "It should not
be construed as official Department of Navy response," said Cmdr.
Steve Lowry, public affairs chief for Navy Recruiting Command. "It's
from a man in the middle of a tough job finding qualified men and
women to serve in the Navy."


STUDENTS BLAST RECRUITING PLOY

Students at a Brooklyn alternative high school are sounding off about
the city's response to a new law giving military recruiters access to
students' personal information.

Under the sweeping new federal education reform bill, called "No
Child Left Behind" and signed into law by President Bush in January,
there is a little-known clause that requires schools to release
students' names, phone numbers and addresses to both military and
college recruiters.

The law also says that schools may require prior written consent from
parents before sharing students' personal information, thereby giving
schools some discretion.

Students at Bushwick Outreach Center, an alternative high school on
Palmetto St. charge the city has not done enough to protect students'
privacy.

The city Department of Education instructed schools this school year
to send a form to parents telling them they may ask to have their
students' names withheld from military recruiters.

Bushwick Outreach students charge the city should have explained the
new policy to parents--and release student information only from
parents who specifically ask to be included in a military database.

Students said their school send parents a vague and confusing form
stuffed behind unrelated materials that most parents neither saw nor
understood.

The New York Civil Liberties Union has also criticized the Education
Department about its policies.

The two groups joined forces at a rally outside nearby Bushwick High
School last week to protest the city's response and bring awareness
to other students about the issue.

"It's about privacy," said 18-year-old senior Indhira Reyes at the
rally Wednesday outside the school on Irving Ave. "We don't want our
information given out like that."

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