Counter-Recruitment, North America

How We Are Countering Military Recruitment in Seattle’s Schools

By Dan Gilman, World BEYOND War, May 31, 2019

What began in one high school in Seattle, Washington, 17 years ago, is now a full blown military counter-recruiter program in all the major high schools of the Seattle Public Schools.

Parents in that first high school became concerned about the aggressive and predatory nature of military recruiting of kids as young as 14 years old.

Veterans For Peace, Chapter 92 has taken on the role and responsibilities of making sure high school students in Seattle hear an alternative to military recruitment. We take some credit for the U.S. Army recruiters saying that Seattle is the hardest place for them to recruit in the country.

It started with some parents in one of the high schools who were active in the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). Military recruiters had practically free rein of the school and seemed to be everywhere at school and sports events to push military service. What the parents knew they had to do was:
1) put restrictions and regulations on military recruiters and
2) provide an alternative perspective for students (counterrecruiting) with equal access to the schools and the students.

The concerned parents started a non-profit organization, Washington Truth in Recruiting.

The PTSA leaders organized the other parents, students, and staff at the school to take on the issue of aggressive military recruiting and put together a plan to go to the Seattle School Board with changes to the by-laws that would accomplish their two goals.  The first change was to limit the visits of the military recruiters. This was added to the by-laws:

“. . . no organization that recruits shall have the opportunity to visit any single campus more that twice per year.” (this does not include career fairs or pre-approved private appointments).

The military recruiters were not allowed to roam the halls or button-hole students; they had to be in a public place (like the cafeteria or the counseling office) approved by the school.

The other policy change provided equal access for counter-recruiters.  The parents persuaded the school board to agree to these rules:

“Recruiters of all types (employment, education, service opportunities, military, or military alternatives) shall be given equal access to Seattle Public School high schools.”

“When a high school permits military recruiters to speak to students regarding military career opportunities, the school must provide equal access for organizations that wish to council alternatives to, or provide additional information about, military service.”

So, the school employee who schedules a military visit to a school must inform Veterans For Peace’s contact person for that school. The new by-laws state that a school “permits organizations that counsel alternatives to the military . . . to be on campus at the same time, and in the same location, as military recruiters.” Usually the military branches set up a table in the cafeteria, and VFP 92 sets its table up right next to them.

We came up with a quiz – a Military I.Q. Quiz.  Students like to think they are smart when it comes to taking a test. The test we came up with not only helps educate students regarding information about the military, but also provides information that they will not likely get from a military recruiter.

We have the one-page quiz on a clipboard, have the students fill out the multiple choice quiz and then go over it with them to see what they know and (more likely) what they don’t know about the military. We often use multiple clipboards so that up to four students can take the quiz at the same time. The quiz serves as a conversation tool. As we review the quizzes, we have a chance to share our own experience as veterans and why we counsel alternatives to military service and reasons to avoid the military.

While the military has many things to give to students (from pens to water bottles to t-shirts, etc.), we have the choice of three peace buttons that students can take after they have completed the quiz. We also have literature on what students should consider before they make a decision to enlist in the military. Brochures are available from Project YANO.

For more information or for questions, contact Dan Gilman, dhgilman@outlook.com.

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Military IQ Quiz

Click here to take the military IQ quiz on Action Network!

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 Answers are available here.

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