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

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Tue Nov 5 18:24:32 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

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 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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