The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico filed a lawsuit on May 6 against the Albuquerque School District for failing to notify parents that they could refuse to allow schools to send their children’s contact information to military recruiters.

The ACLU charged that the district’s current practices violate students’ privacy and are not in compliance with provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

NCLB, which Congress passed in January 2002, requires that every high school turn over students’ contact information to military recruiters, allow them access to students on school property and allow the Department of Defense access to students’ records or lose education funding. But it also requires schools to tell parents they can “opt out” by notifying the school in writing that they want their child’s information withheld from recruiters.

Many educators believe that requiring the release of personal information intrudes on students’ rights.

“We feel it is a clear departure from the letter and the spirit of the current student privacy laws,” said Bruce Hunter, chief lobbyist for the American Association of School Administrators. “Until now, schools could share student information only with other educational institutions. Now other people want our lists.”

“It’s a slippery slope,” he said. “I don’t want student directories sent to Verizon either, just because they claim that all kids need a cell phone to be safe.”

Robert V. Percival, a constitutional law professor at the University of Maryland Law School in Baltimore, in challenging the constitutionality of the military’s access to student information, cited rulings that make the access of student information by the military illegal, including Article 1, section 8 of the Constitution, the 10th Amendment, and the Buckley Amendment passed in 1974. “The Buckley Amendment,” said Percival, “gave students power over their records and other private information including their names and addresses.”

Students at Frederick Douglass High School in Upper Marlboro, Md., say military recruiters routinely call them at home or spam their e-mail accounts with recruiter pitches.

“Schools are for education, not the military,” said Martina Jones, a member of the Douglass student government.

“A recruiter told me I would be a great military candidate because of my high SAT scores. How did he know my scores?” asked Jones.

Other students said they were targeted because of their low SAT scores and told they would have a more successful future in the service than in college.

Before NCLB, 15 percent of the nation’s high schools refused to turn over student information and some refused to allow recruiters on school property. In response, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) sponsored the mandatory provision in NCLB, and the Department of Education and the Department of Defense agreed to cooperate.

Still, the anti-recruitment sentiment is growing. More than 80 percent of the students at Montclair High School in New Jersey have opted out since a student-led campaign began in 2004. In Philadelphia, Michael Hoffman, an Iraq war veteran, visits classrooms to tell students what war is really like. Oskar Castro of the American Friends Service Committee gives students information on becoming a conscientious objector.

Joshua Gordy, a 20-year-old reservist, was recruited at Philadelphia’s Kensington High School when he was 17 and too poor to attend college.

“I was told that I could earn $35,000 for college by signing up, but it hasn’t happened. Military recruitment does not belong in schools,” said Gordy, who now belongs to a group that informs students about the “opt out” provision.

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