Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Recruiters on AISD campuses must observe new limits

As we noted, last Monday, October 26, the AISD school board passed a new policy that will more tightly restrict access by military recruiters to students in our public schools in Austin.  The new policy is here.  A notice about this was included in a segment on KUT Austin public radio news today.

Our group first brought this proposal forward about a year ago after discovering that, of 3 reported cases, between 2008 and 2011, of local military recruiters charged in sexual assaults of area high school students,  only one of the cases had resulted in a conviction.  In the other two cases, which we researched through court documents, the recruiters had reportedly first met the students on AISD campuses, continued their contact through inappropriate texting, convinced the students to meet with them and then assaulted them off campus.  Reading the court records convinced us that serious crimes against underage students had been committed, but the investigations were dropped after numerous postponements, possibly because of reluctance by the victims to relive the trauma of the assaults.

Our group looked at other district policies around the country regarding recruiters in schools.  We had also noticed ways in our own district that recruiters were getting around the SR-290 opt-out box to obtain student contact information, either directly from the students, by telling them to write down their contact info on cards at their recruiting tables, or through administering the ASVAB test on campuses without parental input.  The new limits we proposed were all included in other cities' district policies and were chosen to directly address both the loopholes in the current recruiter policy and the very serious allegations of recruiter sexual abuse.

In our meetings with district staff, we stressed that sexual assault is a major problem within the military, and we believe that it stems from a military culture of sexism, tolerance of sexual violence and a history of retaliation against whistle-blowers.  The last several years have seen much more media attention to this entrenched problem, and we sincerely hope that the increased awareness, mostly achieved through the courage of survivors who have spoken out, will lead to change.  However, the failure of Congress to pass legislation that would have increased accountability by taking prosecution of crimes outside of the military chain of command makes us think that change will be slow in coming.  In the meantime, the serious problem of sexism and sexual assault in the military affects civilian institutions as well, including our public schools, as long as recruiting is allowed on campuses.


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