BANGOR (AP) – Maine peace activists concerned about the presence of military recruiters in schools are adopting a new attitude: If you can’t beat ’em, then join ’em.

Concerned that students are being “seduced into the military,” peace activists are looking for equal time.

“We want to bring the other side of the message so young people can make reasoned decisions,” said Margaret de Rivera, of Orland, a member of Maine American Friends Service Committee, which focuses on peace and social justice.

Military recruiters dazzle students with helicopters and jets, then entice them with promises of travel, education and job opportunities that often don’t pan out, according to peace activists.

Capt. Greg Turner, Army recruiting commander in Bangor, disagreed. He said recruiters do not sell with “a heavy hand. We let the Army sell itself.”

Young people who join the Army get a contract explaining what their job and educational benefits will be, he said. “Everything is right there in black and white,” he said.

Peace activists say they need to be more visible than ever because of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

A little-noticed provision in the new federal education law requires high schools to hand over to military recruiters some key information about its juniors and seniors: names, addresses and phone numbers.

The Pentagon says the information will help it recruit young people to defend their country.

On Saturday, the Maine American Friends Service Committee sponsored a workshop in Augusta to focus on how to work with schools and parents to ensure that students understand the realities of military life. Those who attended were encouraged to work with schools to get their message out.

Under federal equal-access laws, peace activists are able to set up information displays similar to those of the military and even get student directories, said Kevin Ramirez of the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors in Philadelphia.

Not all school administrators will be welcoming the peace activists with open arms, though. Superintendent Leonard Ney of SAD 64 in Corinth said peace activists aren’t the same as college and military recruiters.

“They’re 1/8peace activists 3/8 not offering something. They’re looking for a forum to state their political philosophy,” he said.

Turner, whose recruiters visit some schools once a month and others once a year, said the federal law has made his job easier in recruiting at 89 high schools from Gardiner to Madawaska.

“We like to set up a table in an area where kids can come up to us,” he said. “We don’t strong-arm them.”

AP-ES-05-10-03 1215EDT



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