At the Juneau School Board meeting Tuesday night, a representative of the Juneau Friends Meeting expressed the Quaker group's concern about a provision of the federal "No Child Left Behind" education act that allows military recruiters to get information about students from schools.
"The concern is that there has been a very strong military presence generally in the schools, and the school district has been required by its own policies to keep student information confidential. This new law kind of overrides that," said Amy Paige, a member of the Juneau Friends Meeting's Peace and Social Concerns Committee who penned the group's letter to the School Board.
By custom, many Quakers believe in setting an example of nonviolence, and there is a long Quaker tradition of pacifism, Paige said.
The No Child Left Behind Act, a sweeping 700-page document aimed at reforming the country's schools, was promoted by President Bush and passed into law a year ago today. The law is most famous for its accountability measures that require yearly testing of students and allow students to transfer if parents feel their school doesn't measure up.
Also included in the act is a provision requiring the nation's 22,000 public and private high schools to turn over the names, phone numbers and addresses of all students to military recruiters. With this information, recruiters can make unsolicited calls, send recruitment literature and visit a home without a parent's initial consent.
The federal provision exempts private schools run by religious groups that believe in nonviolence, such as Quakers, and requires that all districts notify parents about the release of the information and allow parents to "opt out" of the student directory.
At Tuesday's meeting, Superintendent Gary Bader said parents were sent a letter in the fall asking for directory information that allowed parents to "opt out." Bader said he could not recall whether the letter referred to the release of the information to military recruiters. He could not be reached for comment this morning.
"The members and attenders of our Meeting, which include a number of families with children in the Juneau School District, are concerned that no steps have yet been taken by the District to inform parents and students of their rights under the law," the Juneau Friends letter read.
If the directory letter did not inform parents that student information could be released to recruiters, the district would inform them now, Bader said. Military recruiters have not requested directory information from Juneau schools yet, he said.
"I am glad the letter brought this to our attention. The (No Child Left Behind) act has numerous provisions," Bader said. "We are certainly going to comply with the law."
John Dunker, who presented the letter at the meeting, said it was not the group's intention to preach to the community about nonviolence, as Quakers don't believe in proselytizing and believe in influencing others only by example.
"A central belief is that there is that of God in every person and virtually all of our practices and beliefs flow from that," Dunker explained.
The group principally is concerned that parents are informed about how personal information will be used, he said.