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Josh Sonnenfeld, Fair Recruitment Advocate

Josh Sonnenfeld, Fair Recruitment Advocate


Lately, Santa Cruz High senior Josh Sonnenfeld is best known for organizing a walkout at Santa Cruz High in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Between 300 and 500 students participated over the course of two hours. Sonnenfeld also helped create the Youth Action Coalition, an association of organizers from high schools all over the Monterey Bay area.
Impressive, indeed, but then Sonnenfeld already has a unique history as an organizer. In 2001, the Bush Administration approved an educational policy called the No Child Left Behind Act. It might as well have been called the No Child Left Behind From Being Solicited By Military Recruiters Act, because hidden within this 600-page document was a stipulation requiring that high school principals turn over directory information for all juniors and seniors to the military.
Sonnenfeld, as part of a group called the Youth Alliance, is campaigning to have the Santa Cruz City School District adopt a progressive policy in response to the provision. He became concerned that the military marketers trying to sell their service could invade students’ privacy and not give them all the factssuch as how the military can take away their rights, discriminate against them, or use them as cannon fodder for senseless wars.
Sonnenfeld worried especially that low-income students without the money to pay for college could be vulnerable to getting a distorted picture of what it means to enlist.
“Unlike colleges, if you join the military, you can’t just switch to another college. You’re stuck for eight years,” he says.
According to the NCLB Act, parents do have the right to refuse placement on the military’s mailing list, but they have to submit a written request to the school. With help from the Resource Center for Nonviolence and the ACLU, Sonnenfeld and the Youth Alliance are proposing to make this an easy process for parents by having them sign a permission slip as part of the registration paperwork for high school.
This would set up a framework allowing parents to choose to have their directory information given out, rather than requiring them to opt out of automatically being placed on the listwhich they usually don’t even know they have to do.
The Youth Alliance’s resolution also calls for every high school in the district to inform students about their privacy rights, and provide a balanced education about military recruitment practices and alternatives to military service. The information would be distributed via classes, assemblies and a resource packet.
Their plan is modeled on a policy passed earlier this year by the San Francisco Unified School District. The Santa Cruz City School District votes on the Youth Alliance’s proposal on March 26.
Sonnenfeld has also created an Internet group ( where students around the country are collaborating on efforts to oppose military recruitment in schools and protect student privacy.

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