High School 'field trip' paid for by the Army
Leave no child behind--when you invade
Dennis McDonald
April 2003

"Dad, look at this," Brodie said, bringing up a screen on his home computer.

Before me was an image of George Bush looking confused and out of sorts, with a splash of copy superimposed across his compromised image. "NOT MY PRESIDENT" "What do you think?" Such are the evenings spent with my eldest son, Brodie, a 17 year old GHS student. Responsible, alert, together. Brodie is a good kid.

He had told me his school was taking a field trip to Gator Nationals to see the drag races. Brodie and I are rebuilding his vintage Mustang. I thought at the time that the field trip seemed frivolous and extravagant, since the School Department was paying for it, and public money was in short demand, but I sent him off to have fun at the races.

When my son returned, he told me that his application for dual enrollment at SFCC had been accepted, and he would start next year as he continued to earn college credits. He also told me "The Army Reserves can pay for my education." A red flag went up.

A couple of weeks before, Brodie had organized and pulled off an antiwar demonstration of high school kids, on the corner of 13th. and University. His convictions are newly found, but I believe, intact, and reflect his kind and caring nature. I asked him where he had heard about tuition being paid through military service. "At Gator Nationals, when we met with the Army Recruiters," was his response.

Forty other GHS students loaded on the bus for the half hour drive to Gator Nationals. When they arrived at the race track the bus was immediately boarded by two Military Recruiters. The entire bus load of students were given an information questionnaire and told the completion of this form was "their ticket into the races."

They were told to provide name, address, telephone number, social security number, best time of future contact, and areas of interest. The forms were collected by the soldiers, and the students herded into a tent to participate in "Career Day," where they joined approximately 400 other students from area schools.

There were three presentations that day, each approximately twenty minutes long. The first was presented by a representative of NHRA. The second was by another Army Recruiter who described opportunities presented by the US Army. And the third was by the funny car driver who drove the Army Team Entry in the event.

The field trip was sponsored by the School Department, and at no time was the agenda disclosed, nor was parental consent requested. I immediately called GHS, The School Department, and members of the School Board, asking for an explanation. The only return call I received was from Dr. Wiley Dixon, principal of GHS. He offered his apologies and explained that the lack of parental consent was an "oversight," and he assured me that "it will never happen again." He also told me that in fact, the US ARMY had paid for the event.

On April 15, I will attend a School Board Meeting at Kirby Smith at 6:00. I intend to petition the School Board to require Parental Consent before any representatives with military, religious, private, or public affiliation are allowed to contact our children.

Since this event, on March 14, I have been in contact with many concerned parents and citizens. I have also discovered that contained within Section 9528 of the "No Child Left Behind" legislation passed in January of 2002, ARMED FORCES RECRUITERS HAVE FULL ACCESS TO STUDENTS AND STUDENT RECRUITING INFORMATION. This is mandated by law. Schools are required to submit this information if they want to receive federal assistance.

This makes the full disclosure of School Board Policy even more critical. I strongly urge concerned citizens to engage in an informational campaign whereby we learn of how these laws affect our children and our liberties. I believe compelling letters written to School Board Members demanding Parental Consent before any future recruiting campaigns occur are essential. I am asking help as we learn more about this "No Child Left Behind"* legislation and, if we work together to keep Military Recruiters out of our Public Schools without our consent, our parental rights will remain intact, and our liberties less compromised by a campaign to feed this military machine.

Dennis MacDonald lives in Gainesville. He can be contacted at 338-7773 dfgone@aol.com

*'No child left behind' is a slogan stolen from the Children's Defense Fund by the Bush administration.

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