The Raynham School Committee has rejected a request from a Bridgewater peace group to provide balanced information to students about the military.
The school committee has rejected a request from a Bridgewater peace group to provide balanced information to students about the military.
Members said Bridgewater-Raynham students are given ample guidance about enlisting in the armed forces without the efforts of “counter-recruiters.”
“I do not believe it’s appropriate or needed,” Joseph Gillis Jr., chairman of a subcommittee on counter-recruiting, said Wednesday night.
Bridgewater Citizens for an Informed Community asked school officials this summer if it could set up a table at B-R alongside military recruiters. They said they wanted students to get a realistic look at the armed forces beyond the glossy promotional brochures and aggressive recruiting tactics.
The organization said it also wanted to make parents aware the school’s Army Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test was voluntary and it wanted an “opt-out” form – barring the release of their children’s personal information to the Department of Defense – to be more prominently placed in the handbook.
The federal government hinges “No Child Left Behind” funding on a school district’s release of this data unless the opt-out form is signed.
It is located on page 70 in the legal section of the 71-page student handbook.
CIC believes many parents are unaware of their rights.
But school committee members said high school administrators and guidance personnel work closely with students to make sure their concerns about life choices are addressed.
They said few B-R students enlist or take the test. In fact, between 2000-2008, only 29, or 1.4 percent of graduating seniors, entered the military, they said.
They also said they have received no complaints from parents about a recruiting policy that provides the armed forces with informational tables at the school a few times a year.
“It’s a very casual situation. The military sets up a table outside the cafeteria. Sometimes they offer students trinkets like key chains or pens,” Gillis said. “The recruiters are only there to answer questions. They do not approach the students.”
The military presence is separate from those of colleges – the only other outside organizations allowed into the school.
B-R Superintendent Jacqueline Forbes cautioned the school committee about giving access to any other group without the advice of legal counsel.
“I think it’s a slippery slope,” Forbes said.
Subcommittee member Stephen Donohue said current policies and procedures seem to be working.
“What we found was that, while the military may have unsavory recruiting tactics, we don’t see that at B-R,” he said.
The school committee did express some concern about what group would be delivering the “counter” message, saying that CIC was not a “formal entity.”
One colleague disagreed.
The basic concept of giving students both sides of the story before making a decision is an important one, committeeman Geoffrey Domenico said
CIC’s Vernon Domingo, a Bridgewater State College professor, said other communities, including Scituate and Milton, have allowed counter-recruiters “and the sky hasn’t fallen on those towns.
“The role of educators is to offer students differing perspectives. That’s what education is all about – discussing the tough issues,” he said.
CIC’s Ray Ajemian, a Vietnam-era veteran, said he would welcome the committee’s suggestion to hold a debate on the subject. “Let’s make it a free speech issue,” he said.
Only one audience member spoke, appealing for “fairness and openness.”
“If you let one side in, the students should have an opportunity to see the other side,” James Zahakos of Raynham said. “If they don’t see both sides, how can they make an intelligent decision?”
The opt-out form will be moved up to page 34 in the guidance section of the handbook. The “opt-out” deadline is Oct. 1.