Monday, October 25, 2010

Success: students in Bay area opt out of Pentagon's data base

Check out this good news from students and allies out in Oakland, CA who are organized as BAYPEACE (Better Alternatives for Youth). In their latest achievement toward protecting students from unwanted contact from military recruiters, they worked with the school board in San Francisco to allow students to opt out of the Pentagon's "JAMRS" data base. Here is their report:

Another Victory for Student Privacy from the JAMRS Military Recruiting Database!
On October 12, 2010 the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Board unanimously passed Resolution No. 108-24A1— a Recommitment of the San Francisco Unified School District to Further Protect Student Privacy from Military Recruitment.

The resolution, presented by Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer, was the third "JAMRS opt out" resolution inspired by the BAY-Peace Youth Manifesto Campaign. BAY-Peace: Better Alternatives for Youth, working in partnership with the American Friends Service Committee, is behind the three year, grassroots, youth-led campaign aimed at raising students' awareness of their right to opt out of having their personal information sold to the military by the private military recruiting database called "JAMRS."

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, Joint Advertising Market Research Studies (JAMRS), is a private database funded by the Department of Defense with the goal of maximizing recruitment efforts. In 2005, the Pentagon announced the existence of the JAMRS Database—a massive registry of 30 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 25 for military recruitment purposes.

The JAMRS database includes information such as name, date of birth, gender, mailing address e-mail address, race and ethnicity, telephone number, high school name, graduation date, Grade Point Average, college intent, military interest, field of study and the student's ASVAB test score. The information is collected from a wide range of public and private sources, unbeknownst to the youth themselves or to their parents. A 2007 lawsuit by the New York Civil Liberties Union won the right of students to keep their personal information from being sold to the military by opting out of the JAMRS database.

These new Student Privacy resolutions in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco each require that a "Joint Advertising Market Research Studies (JAMRS) opt-out form to be included in every high school student's registration packet" to inform students of their right to tell JAMRS not to sell their personal information to military recruiters. They also require that opt-out forms to be made visibly available at all Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco High School campuses.

The three districts already provide the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) opt-out form to protect students from unwanted pursuit by military recruiters. However, since most students and parents are not aware that their information is also being collected by JAMRS, a second opt-out form is considered to be necessary for further protection.
The Student Privacy Resolutions address the increased use of detailed personal information by military recruiters to target those young people whose options are limited by the economic crisis. In the words of Phuong Vuong, a teacher and organizer with BAY-Peace, "As a school District serving working class students of color, the population most targeted by military recruiters, the San Francisco Unified School District should do all it can to support youth to have fulfilling opportunities, opportunities that really embrace life and intellectual development."

Luis Montoya, a BAY-Peace Youth Action Team member, got loud applause from the crowd when he expressed his appreciation to the San Francisco Board for giving students the right to protect their privacy. "You are giving voices to the voiceless, and we all know that nobody can avoid the voices of the voiceless. So thank you!"

Board President, Jane Kim expressed her surprise that a second opt out form was necessary to protect student privacy. "I had no idea that there was a private company that was giving out student information to the military, and I'm really glad that Commissioner Fewer was able to follow up and to work with our legal office... to bring forward a policy for our district as well." Ms. Kim thanked the American Friends Service Committee for bringing the JAMRS issue to the attention of the Board.
Sandra Schwartz, of the American Friends Service Committee testified to the importance of protecting students from the "...extremely aggressive military recruiting practices that occur... At last count we are working in twenty five schools throughout the Bay Area and some of those schools have recruiters on campus every week."

According to Commissioner Jill Wynn, "Our district has always had a strong, strong tradition of opposing military recruiting in the schools... Our policy is quite clear. We follow the specific letter of the law and that is that we allow the same access, and only the same access, that we allow to other post secondary options for students... Military recruiters believe they can track people down, follow them around the school yard, go after them over and over again and come back to the school whenever they want to... We've had military recruiters say that 'the law requires you to let me in here whenever I want to' and that is absolutely untrue." Commissioner Hydra Mendoza also expressed her frustration with military recruiters who attempt to have free access to students. "I also want to publicly say to the recruiters that you're not welcome in our schools."

BAY-Peace has recently received funding to support their Youth Action Team to get the word out to community activists in school districts around the country about the JAMRS military recruiting database. Grants from the A. J. Muste Foundation, Resist and the Rose and Sherle Wagner Foundation will help BAY-Peace youth to distribute copies of our new video called "The List," which was produced with youth from The Factory this summer, to educate students about their right to opt out of JAMRS. Please join them in supporting this important project!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Our SOY table today at McCallum HS

Hart and I had a great school visit at McCallum HS today. Photos above. A few observations:
Quite a few students lingered and then brought friends over to the table. They participated in the penny poll (the environment jar had the most votes for federal budget priorities), peace wheel and "I'd rather buy" fliers, which we posted on the bulletin board behind us. The most popular patch design was probably the one of the pandas eating bamboo. Animals are important!
Several students staffed a Breast Cancer Awareness table across from us. It makes me sad that young people have to be worried about cancer. Our message about the environmental costs of war and militarism tie in with that.
McCallum is the arts magnet school, and it's always great to see the student art that is on display in the halls, a couple of photos of which are above.