By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 3, 2006
About a half-dozen people -- led by a Montgomery County parent -- staged a protest outside a Silver Spring high school yesterday to highlight their continued opposition to the presence of military recruiters on high school campuses.
The target of their wrath was the Army Cinema Van, a multimedia vehicle used by the Army in its recruiting efforts. The van, which shows videos and has a NASCAR simulator, stopped at Montgomery Blair High School yesterday and has made other stops recently at Gaithersburg and Magruder high schools. It is one of a number of ways the armed services promote careers in the military.
Throughout the day at Montgomery Blair, recruiters ushered interested students into the vehicle to watch a movie about physics and roller coasters and talk about the Army. About 80 students took part. School administrators would not allow a reporter to interview students about their impressions.
Pat Elder, a Walt Whitman High parent who helped organize the protest, said the van and similar recruiting methods glorify careers in the military while minimizing the risks students who enlist will face if they join.
Parents across the country have voiced opposition to allowing military recruiters on campuses as the third anniversary of the war in Iraq approaches and casualties mount. A provision of the No Child Left Behind law that requires high schools to give recruiters student information -- or face sanctions -- also has ignited opposition.
Many public schools give military recruiters the same access to student information as college recruiters. Parents can prevent recruiters from contacting their child if they fill out special forms.
Kelly Rowe, public affairs officer for the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion, compared the Army Cinema Van to efforts by colleges to recruit students. "I don't think it's any different from an athlete who gets 10 letters saying, 'Come play for us,' " Rowe said.
Stacey Gurian-Sherman, a Montgomery Blair parent, was not among the protesters marching on the sidewalk yesterday, but she went to the school to see the recruiters' presentation. After watching it, she said, she was even more opposed to their presence on campus.
"We don't even allow students to vote until they're 18, but we're allowing 14-year-olds to watch this?" she said, referring to the Army Cinema Van programming. "The military should not be recruiting at high school campuses."