By Jacob Levich

With more than 2,000 U.S. soldiers dead in Iraq, many families have decided that military service is a dangerous career move. Enlistments are dropping.

That’s why the U.S. Army spent $290 million this year on advertising that targets kids, especially young people of color. But the most effective way to sign students up, military recruiters say, is face-to-face.

A new law, the “No Child Left Behind Act,” gives the military special access to schools. The law also requires school districts to release students’ personal information to recruiters. Students are then called at home and pressured to enlist. Parents and kids can protect their privacy by signing “opt-out” forms, which make it illegal for schools to give the student’s information to the military — but few families know this.

Recruiting is heaviest in poor and minority neighborhoods, where jobs and opportunities are scarce. The military promises money for college and good civilian jobs. In fact, less than 10% of all Army recruits qualify for college funds, and studies show that veterans earn less than non-veterans!

Some students and veterans are organizing to help tell the truth about military life. They are called counter-recruiters. In New York City and elsewhere, high school kids are encouraging their friends to submit “opt-out” forms.

Others show up wherever recruiters do business and hand out accurate information about the military. Kids can get involved by joining local counter-recruitment groups, or by starting groups in their own schools.