Archive for Friday, April 20, 2007

Called to attention

High schoolers expose military’s enlistment tactics in their film ‘No Child Left Unrecruited’

April 20, 2007


"No Child Left Unrecruited" (trailer), by Lexi Welch and Sarah Ybarra Enlarge video

Lawrence High School senior Alexia Welch, left, and junior Sarah Ybarra, right, pictured with their film teacher Jeffrey Kuhr, debuted their documentary, "No Child Left Unrecruited," on Tuesday, April 24, 2007, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. The film explores the federal No Child Left Behind law that requires high schools to provide lists of student information for military recruiters.

Lawrence High School senior Alexia Welch, left, and junior Sarah Ybarra, right, pictured with their film teacher Jeffrey Kuhr, debuted their documentary, "No Child Left Unrecruited," on Tuesday, April 24, 2007, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. The film explores the federal No Child Left Behind law that requires high schools to provide lists of student information for military recruiters.

Jeffrey Kuhr, left, and Alexia Welch approached Rep. Dennis Moore recently at the USD 497 Administrative Offices, inviting him to the screening of "No Child Left Unrecruited."

Jeffrey Kuhr, left, and Alexia Welch approached Rep. Dennis Moore recently at the USD 497 Administrative Offices, inviting him to the screening of "No Child Left Unrecruited."

Audio Clips
"No Child Left Unrecruited"
Past Event
Film: "No Child Left Unrecruited"

  • When: Tuesday, April 24, 2007, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St., Lawrence
  • Cost: Free
  • More on this event....

It started as a class assignment.

Lawrence High School students in a broadcast media class were asked to make a short clip of an advertisement.

Simple enough.

"Over the summer I had gotten a letter from an Army recruiter that offered me money to enlist with him. And we see recruiters at lunch all the time, so we thought they're like an advertisement in our school," says LHS senior Alexia Welch.

"It was supposed to be a five-minute thing, but the more we found out about it, the more we realized it had to be a movie."

The "it" part of the equation that Welch and her classmate, junior Sarah Ybarra, discovered involved a provision in the No Child Left Behind Act. Buried in the 670-page domestic initiative is a clause that requires schools to make available every student's name and contact information to the military - or risk forfeiting federal aid.

Welch and Ybarra's investigation into what it takes to opt out of that listing has resulted in a half-hour documentary called "No Child Left Unrecruited." The movie premieres at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H.

"Kids didn't know why Army recruiters were calling them. And none of the kids knew they could opt out," Ybarra says.

Most didn't know either that their school also provided age, gender and parents' work phone numbers to the military - information that also was included in a school directory that could be bought for $2 dollars.

Who else was purchasing this specific information? Credit card companies? Pedophiles?

But opting out of that directory carried its own consequences, the students learned, such as being excluded from the yearbook and honor roll listings.

"Their interest never waned," says LHS film and media arts teacher Jeffrey Kuhr of his two students. "It was like they were going down the rabbit hole as they found more and more information. It got to the point where we sat down and I said, 'You're not going to finish (the film) this semester.'"

Face to face

The 18-year-old Welch and 17-year-old Ybarra spent months doing what amounted to old-fashioned investigative journalism.

They first sought interviews from the recruiters who roamed the halls of their school.

"They didn't want to be on camera," Welch explains. "But then we found out since they're at our school, and it's a public thing, we were allowed to use that (footage)."

Next came interviews with other students, parents, teachers, LHS Principal Steve Nilhas, school district Superintendent Randy Weseman, and even U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore (D.-Kan.), who had supported No Child Left Behind.

"Some people in the district didn't want us to meddle into things because they didn't want it to affect their jobs," Ybarra recalls. "There were a couple people we dealt with who were condescending or rude with us. On the other hand, we got a lot of support from our principal and staff at our school."

One of the most unusual sources stemmed from that somewhat mysterious mail Welch received that provided the catalyst for much of her privacy concerns.

Earlier in 2006, she had opened a letter sent to her home by a Richard Gantz, who promised to give her $100 dollars to enlist through him in the Army.

The filmmakers contacted Gantz, who told them he was a "contractor" for the Army, but wouldn't reveal if he held a rank in the military or was simply a third-party broker of sorts.

Recent phone calls to Gantz's toll-free number were answered by this message: "You have reached a United States Army recruiter's cell phone. Please call (785) 843-0465 to speak to a recruiter."

The number given was that of the U.S. Army Recruiting office at 2233 La. When the Journal-World called and asked to speak to Gantz, a staffer repeatedly said, "He no longer works here."

National scope

Despite ruffling a few feathers at the local level, Welch and Ybarra made some powerful national allies as well.

Maverick filmmaker Robert Greenwald ("Outfoxed," "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price") supplied the pair with a lawyer who works with fair-use projects.

Most impressively, Rep. Mike Honda (D.-Calif.), became aware of the work accomplished by the filmmakers. Honda is proposing a new amendment to No Child Left Behind when it comes up for renewal this year that would require an opt-in policy instead of an opt-out.

"It would completely change everything with one word," Kuhr says.

(The documentary uncovered that of the 2,000 or so kids enrolled at LHS, only 13 had taken advantage of the opt-out choice.)

"What shocked me the most was the lack of clarity at the district level. We were getting different answers from different administrators about what the policy was," Kuhr says.

"If WE don't know, how are parents supposed to make good decisions? How are students supposed to make good decisions?

True education

Ybarra says the experience of making "No Child Left Unrecruited" has made an indelible impact on her.

"I'm kind of amazed by it. I never thought it would be as big as it's become," says Ybarra, who plans on studying film when she goes to college.

Welch had a somewhat different reaction to the project.

"I want to pursue journalism or something along those lines," she says. "I don't know if I could do documentaries. It's one of those things that's just never ending. There's always something you can add or something you could fix."

Tuesday's screening is being sponsored in part by the Lawrence chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice.

"Already people who haven't seen this film have questioned it as being liberal propaganda," Kuhr says.

"There are probably people who see this as a waste of school time, whereas I see this as the ultimate definition of education. These kids were passionate about something, followed it through, learned from it and are now changed because of it. To me school doesn't get any better than that."


Mike Blur 11 years, 2 months ago

You're still wrong, Pilgrim. The military can access the information, but anyone else--myself, credit card companies, marketing agencies--can plunk down the $2 and have access to all this info. You answered BigAl's question about the sell of of information by replying it was "free." That's incorrect.

trinity 11 years, 2 months ago

right ON! i love this kind of initiative&"gumption" in young folk! :)

BigAl 11 years, 2 months ago

"No Child Left Behind"... another Bush fiasco. Why in the world are schools allowed to sell off names, phone numbers and addresses of parents? Why was there a recruiter on my home answering machine asking for my 16 year old daughter?

Good for these girls in exposing this outrageous invasion of our privacy.

Sarah_Y 11 years, 2 months ago

And I think that's absolutely wonderful for your son. The GI Bill does offer up to 37,000 dollars for enlistees and that is all part of the ASVAP program as you know. My concern was that this mysterious man was offering $100 of his money to people sign up with HIM and only him, under NO program affiliated with the Army. While you may not see your son's situation a bribe, the issue with the $100 dollars was considered a bribe not only by me but by an official military recruiter who recruits also here in Lawrence. He made it clear that was the recruiter was doing was wrong.

KsTwister 11 years, 2 months ago

Then who gave my son $1000? Courtesy of the USA or was it the recruiter? Either way though, its still a bribe. I might add that his recruiter was not in Kansas.

ibiswoman 11 years, 2 months ago

These young women are unafraid to ask questions and document their findings in a public way, and they deserve our thanks. Let's not forget to give round of applause to Lawrence Public Schools and particularly to Mr. Kuhr. It takes a real educator to work with younger people on projects that are relevant to them, including those which have controversial aspects in the larger world.

kshiker 11 years, 2 months ago

Give me a break. Where is the harm in the current practice? So this legislation requires a student to answer a phone call from someone who wants to inform you about the opportunity to serve your country.

This article makes it sound like the federal government is trying to sell them a credit card or ask them to switch their long distance service. I'm glad that we are educating the future Michael Moore's of America right here in Lawrence, Kansas.

kshiker 11 years, 2 months ago

BigAl --

You may want to note that Senator Edward Kennedy and Representative George Miller (both Democrats) are also major supporters of the No Child Left Behind Act. If you want someone to blame, you may want to check with those individuals as well.

BigAl 11 years, 2 months ago

I don't care what politician supports this. I don't need any recruiters calling my 16 year old daughter and I definitely don't need the school system selling off my name, address and phone number. By the way, unlike a lot of you rightwing sheep, I am a veteran, a member of the American Legion and no one, NO ONE, supports our military any more than I do.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 2 months ago

I thought the ljw already ran an article about this?

BigAl 11 years, 2 months ago

kshiker... get a grip. I welcome the military, in fact, I would even suggest the military be considered, when my daughter is at least a Sr in High School and facing college choices and her future. Right now, she is 16 years old and should be off limits to military recruiters.

AND there is no way that any school system should be selling names, numbers and addresses to anyone.

By the way, I don't care if Kennedy, Miller or the Pope came with this, it was primarily Bush's plan and it still stinks.

I am becoming so sick of the right wing burying their heads and not questioning the direction this country is headed. If this would have happend under Bill Clinton the right would be pi**ing in their post toasties.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 2 months ago

oh and just to state my opinion I blame the no child left behind act for this not the milatary recurturs. I think DC pulled one over on the people on this one and I do not usially speak againt the gov.

BigAl 11 years, 2 months ago

mommaeffort... Please allow me to be very clear. I also blame the unfunded No Child Left Behind act. I do not blame the recruiters. They are simply doing their job.

Jace 11 years, 2 months ago

BigAl makes a good point.

Recruiters are just doing their job.

Why are these young people making the Army seem like "the bad guy".

It's not the Army's fault that we have a jerk for a president...and as a result, he has misused and abused the army considerably!

These kids should be railing against their president...not the U.S. Army!

Mike Blur 11 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I love it when kids stick it to the man. Question authority at every opportunity. When you get the answer, uncover and expose the lies they feed you!

Who were the rude and condescending ones? Administrators? Teachers? People who have been charged with the education of our youth?

SettingTheRecordStraight 11 years, 2 months ago

This is precisely why parents choose to homeschool or send their children to private schools.

KsTwister 11 years, 2 months ago

Excellent Achievement Girls!!!!!

Now to take on the big dogs. My keyboard please.

Ragingbear 11 years, 2 months ago

My only wish was that they told us of the showing at the Arts Center earlier.

overthemoon 11 years, 2 months ago

"This is precisely why parents choose to homeschool or send their children to private schools."

Are you suggesting that this sort of educational tool is more available to homeschoolers or private school students...or are you saying parents prefer to keep 'em cloistered so they can make sure their kids never have an original thought???

Mike Blur 11 years, 2 months ago

Pilgrim, the directory booklet costs $2 from LHS. You're wrong on Count A.

Kathy Theis-Getto 11 years, 2 months ago

Well, I think I must partially agree with Pilgrim on this one. According to FERPA and its definition of directory information and the subsequent use - I can walk into any school and ask for a copy of the student directory if I sign a release that states I will not use it for an unlawful purpose. Now, the school MAY charge me for that directory information, it MAY not.

lawrencechick 11 years, 2 months ago

Yikes......the Greatest Generation must cringe at this generation. What a bunch of whiners.

Sarah_Y 11 years, 2 months ago

Dear Everyone,

Hi, my name is Sarah and I am one of the filmmakers for No Child Left Unrecruited. First off, both me and Lexi were very happy too see people were already responding to this article because one of the purposes of this film was to create discussion throughout the community about an issue we both feel is passionate about. If this is a discussion you feel interested in as well, no matter what your opinion may be, we welcome you all to the premiere after which we will be taking and answering questions. We would love to hear your thoughts!

We also noticed there was some confusion on some of the facts and elements relating to the film and I would like to help resolve some of the confusion.

First, I'd like to say that this film explores a local clerical issue and is in no way politically bias. We simply wanted answers on how third parties were receiving and using student's information. Our goal was not to attack the army nor any school official.

Second, we do understand that it is a recruiter's job to recruit. We also understand that it is against recruiting policy to bribe or offer money, something that an official military recruiter informed us of. It is also important that the Military does have information widely available to students.

Third, Lawrence High school does sell directories for two dollars that includes student information, purchasing the school directory does not require a release from to be sold. Any third party can purchase this directory if they wish. Although, since this information is public and is required to be released to recruiters by NCLB, the Military does not have to pay it.

But in the end, recruiting is not the problem. The problem is that students and parents are not aware that their information is being released. They are unaware that the have the option and the RIGHT to opt-out.

We hope that our film inspires discussion and helps inform the community on a problem that we feel affects us all.

I thank you for you interests in our project,

Sarah Ybarra

KsTwister 11 years, 2 months ago

Thank you Sarah,.....but let me tell a truth, my son was "bribed" to join the military, and it was done in two ways: 1) He was offered $1000 to sign up as they needed engineers. 2) He was offered $25,000.00 removed from his $50K+ college loan.

Some may not call this a bribe but I call them as I see them.

Sarah_Y 11 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I would probably consider that 1000 as a bribe too. Who knows who's money that actually is.

Mike Blur 11 years, 2 months ago

There's about 15 "Richard Gantz" records that popped up at The records that provided a rank listed either E-4 or E-5 as a pay grade--grades not typically associated with recruiters (E-6 and up, in my experience.)

There is one "Richard Gantz" who is not a service member (you need not be an SM to join The rest have DoD records associated with their names; all branches of service are represented.

The problem I have with the records requirement is the penalties incurred by the "opt out" policy. No yearbook and no honor roll recognition? What else is there? Do you get benched from team sports? Are opt-outers allowed to participate in graduation ceremonies? The penalties seem unnecessarily punitive to me.

Does any other opt-out policy in the history of mankind come with such onerous strings attached?

More young adults need to speak out against the potentially nefarious recruiting tactics being employed. The concept of "contracted recruiters"--ostensibly civilians who are former SM's--is intriguing to me. Can this be for real? That could be a workaround for regular army recruiters who are bound to perform their job in an ethical manner. Private citizens can do pretty much anything they want!

(Hmmm...maybe I can land a part time gig as a contract recruiter. Sounds sweet actually, and I had a great time in the peacetime military. Saw the world and didn't have to shoot at anyone! Alas, I can't fit into my dress greens anymore....)

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