MTA supports withdrawal of troops, curbs on military recruitment in schools

Delegates to the Massachusetts Teachers Association’s Annual Meeting recently voted to support an “expedited” withdrawal of troops from Iraq and limits on aggressive military recruitment in the state’s public schools.

The MTA is the state’s largest union, representing 107,000 public school and public higher education educators and support staff. The military-related proposals were approved at the organization’s Annual Meeting of Delegates in Boston on May 12.

The new business item on Iraq noted that educators believe that “peaceful conflict resolution must not only be taught in schools but must as well be modeled by local, state, national and international leaders.” It further noted that the costs of supporting military operations in Iraq are “indisputably impacting schools, our students, and our communities by diverting money away from public education, health care, and social programs.”

The resolution was supported by a majority of the nearly 1,100 delegates attending the Annual Meeting, thereby making it an official MTA position. With that vote, the MTA joins the National Education Association, the California Federation of Teachers and over one third of Massachusetts municipalities that have voted in favor of resolutions to end the war in Iraq.

The second measure was in support of legislation (House Bill 562) designed to safeguard students’ privacy rights in the face of aggressive recruitment tactics by the military. The proposal noted that “recruiters in many of our schools have approached students in the halls, in cafeterias, and on school grounds without express permission of administrators, parents, or the students themselves, repeatedly contacting students despite being asked not to do so.” It stated further that “many military recruiters, under pressure to fill their quotas, unduly pressure students or misrepresent the benefits they will receive for enlisting.”

To curb these and other problems, H. 562 would require that students and parents be notified in writing of their right to “opt out” of releasing students’ personal contact information to military recruiters without prior written consent, and it would forbid providing recruiters with the results of students’ aptitude tests without express consent.

The delegates directed the MTA to lobby for passage of the bill and to provide MTA members with information about student privacy rights.

Both proposals were made by a group of members who have formed an informal “Peace and Justice Caucus.” This is not an official committee within the MTA, but a diverse group of members who state that they are “devoted to their work and students and to the ideals of a just and peaceful society.”