American Public Health Association Takes Stand Against Military Recruiting in Nation’s High Schools

Assistant Prof. Amy Hagopian Behind Resolution

 By Bobbi Nodell
UW Medicine/Health Sciences

Nov. 8, 2012 -- Based on the work of a University of Washington professor and her colleague, the American Public Health Association has adopted a policy statement opposing military recruiting in the nation’s primary and secondary schools because of the substantial negative health repercussions for teens.
The resolution, voted by members at the association’s annual meeting in San Francisco Oct. 30, was the culmination of several years of effort by Assistant Prof. Amy Hagopian in Global Health and Kathy Barker, who worked with Hagopian on the Garfield High School Parent, Teacher, Student Association in Seattle.
The American Public Health Association said the health effects of military service coupled with significant evidence that the adolescent brain is not equipped to make accurate risk calculations led them to conclude that entry into the military should be delayed until full adulthood.
“Although adults in the active military service are reported to experience increased mental health risk, including stress, substance abuse, and suicide, there is evidence that military service for the youngest soldiers is consistently associated with health effects far worse than for those who are older,” the association said in its  statement.
The resolution will become part of the American Public Health Association’s policy once it is finalized in January.
The resolution calls on the Department of Defense to restrict its recruiters from entering public schools to recruit students, and from obtaining names and addresses of students from public elementary and secondary schools.
APHA’s 202-member governing council voted in favor of adoption. APHA is the oldest and largest organization of public health professionals in the world, and is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year. The association's mission is to protect all Americans, their families and their communities from preventable, serious health threats and assure community-based health promotion and disease prevention activities and preventive health services are universally accessible in the United States.
“I think the most persuasive factor for my public health colleagues was that recruiters are not in our schools to present a balanced picture of what it means to enlist,” said Hagopian. “Recruiters are asking children to make an irrevocable decision that will likely harm their health at a time when their brains are not yet able to make good risk assessments. That’s why we don’t let people drink until they are 21.”
Hagopian has worked on this issue since she was president of the Parent, Teacher, Student Association (PTSA) at Seattle’s Garfield High School in 2005. The school achieved national notoriety when the PTSA voted to oppose military recruiting in the city’s schools. Barker has worked on in-school recruiting policy in schools and with districts and educational organizations since 2005 with Washington Truth in Recruiting and the Garfield High School PTSA.
Hagopian and Barker subsequently published an academic paper in the American Journal of Public Health describing the disproportionately poor health status of the youngest soldiers (Am J Public Health. 2011 Jan;101(1):19-23.)
The resolution also recommends that Congress revise the No Child Left Behind Act to repeal the provisions that mandate public schools collaborate with military recruiters by providing full access to school buildings and student contact information. It further recommends that Congress reiterate its commitment to follow the Optional Protocol of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child by restricting recruiter access to children in schools.

To reach Prof. Hagopian, please email hagopian@uw.edu.