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Schools End Sale of Names to Military

January 23, 1991|DENISE HAMILTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Board of Education passed three urgent, Gulf War-related measures Tuesday, including one that stops the district from selling the names, addresses and home phone numbers of high school students to military recruiters and nonprofit groups.

Another measure asked the board's staff to develop a plan to help students cope with the psychological and emotional trauma of the Middle East conflict.

District Supt. Bill Anton said schools could enlist the help of crisis intervention teams to work with troubled students. Several board members suggested holding meetings to help parents identify and deal with their children's war fears.

"War has come to visit our children, they are scared, they are confused . . . and we have to help them deal with this," said board member Warren Furutani.

The decision to stop selling lists to the military also was prompted by war fears, said board President Jackie Goldberg, who introduced the measure.

"There are so many complaints, and the bottom line is . . . I don't know why we do it. It was a convenience that kind of evolved . . . and was not widely discussed," Goldberg said.

Board member Roberta Weintraub, who cast the sole dissenting vote, charged other board members with being unpatriotic.

"I think the military has a right to contact people on a voluntary basis; I don't see anything ill-advised in it," Weintraub said.

At least three of the seven board members said they were unaware of the longstanding practice of selling lists until they read about it in The Times earlier this month. The district, which has sold lists of high school juniors and seniors since 1971, charges 3 cents per name and made $8,108 last year, which pays only the cost of processing the names, a district spokesman said.

Furutani expressed outrage over the practice and likened it to "selling bounties."

Board member Leticia Quezada added that it was "an invasion of student privacy."

District officials who defended the policy last week said parents who do not want information about their children released to organizations can sign a form requesting confidentiality. But some parents complained that their children continued to receive solicitations from the military even after they signed such forms.

Selling lists is allowed under the state Education Code and is common in districts throughout California, but a backlash against the process is growing.

Earlier this month, parental pressure forced the Oakland Board of Education to stop selling lists of student names to military recruiters. Several other school districts, including the ABC Unified School District in Southeast Los Angeles, are reviewing their policies.

The measure, which took effect immediately, halts the sale of lists to all groups, including colleges, universities and trade schools.

Critics have charged that recruiters target students in poor or minority areas and tout the military as their only hope to get out of poverty.

"I have parents at Belmont High School (near downtown Los Angeles) who tell me they get stuff morning, noon and night. I don't get those complaints from Marshall High School" in the more tony Los Feliz area, Goldberg said.

John Guzman, the student representative to the school board, said he has received a continual barrage of mail from the military in the past two years.

"One week I receive something from the Army and the next week from the Marines," said Guzman, a senior who attends Lincoln High School in northeast Los Angeles. Guzman says the envelopes are seductive, printed with exhortations such as "$40,000 Scholarship, Open Immediately."

The board also voted to continue paying the salaries of district employees who are reservists and are called to active duty in the Persian Gulf. The board voted to pay the difference between the reservists' salary and their regular district salary for as long as the war lasts, a measure that could add an extra financial burden to the district at a time when it must cut $88 million by June 30 to balance its budget.

The district has about 70 employees who are reservists, but so far only 11 have been called for active duty, a district official said.

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