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StarBulletin.com

Isle schools right to limit recruiting


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POSTED: Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Hawaii's public school system has taken a bold step in protecting students from military recruiters because of deceptions made last year by a Navy recruiter. Unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a challenge for recruiters and the school measures are necessary to shield students from overly aggressive recruitment pitches.

Even with the recession's high unemployment levels and a lifting of the enlistment age limit from 35 to 42, the Army continues having difficulty meeting recruitment needs. The Navy, with an age limit of 34 for enlistees, has been able to reach its recruitment targets, which makes underhanded measures especially egregious.

The Navy recruiter, Petty Officer 1st Class Jimmy Pecadeso, was found in an investigation by the Navy Recruiting Command's inspector general to have misled two Kapolei High School seniors last year following a report of the incident by the Star-Bulletin's Susan Essoyan. Pecadeso has been reassigned to a shipboard position.

Cory Miyasato and Joseph Mauga Jr. said Pecadeso had told them in the week leading up to their graduation at Kapolei that their Navy enlistment would provide them free, four-year college educations prior to their going to sea. They found after enlisting in the Navy's Delayed Entry Program that college would follow four years of full-time active duty.

Miyasato and Mauga, who are enrolled now at Leeward Community College, and their parents appealed to the Navy Recruiting Command to void their contracts and investigate Pecadeso. The investigation found last month that Pecadeso had misled them.

Pecadeso had been barred from recruiting on the Kapolei High campus because of his methods, but he tracked down Miyasato off campus. The school's councilor had complained to Pecadeso's supervisor.

A provision tucked away in the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002 requires high schools to provide military recruiters the names of all juniors and seniors and how to make contact with them. Parents are able to sign an “;opt-out”; form to block the passing on of such information, but only if they know about it. The deadline for parents to fill out and submit “;opt-out”; forms is Sept. 15.

The father of a Konawaena High School student had signed the form in January. However, the law did not prevent his son's score on the military qualifying test to be provided to a Marine recruiter who, according to the father, used “;unscrupulous methods”; to try to enlist his son.

Nearly three-fourths of the students who take the military test have no plans to enter the armed services. Partly in response to the Pecadeso case, the state Department of Education has taken the needed step of denying the test information to recruiters unless the student goes to a recruiting station off campus and signed a form allowing the information to be given.