LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Unified School District recently announced a new policy that will better protect students' free speech rights, set specific parameters for military recruiters on public school campuses and protect the privacy rights of students who do not want to be contacted by the military.

The new policy comes after discussions with the ACLU of Southern California and a committee of Los Angeles teachers on behalf of parents and students in the district.

"Parents and students are concerned that they are being targeted by recruiters while at school and that they have little defense against the military's strong-arm tactics," said Ranjana Natarajan, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. "School districts like LAUSD are acting responsibly by updating their policies on military recruiting to better protect students' free speech and privacy rights."

The LAUSD approved the new eight-page policy late last month and just made it available to district employees. The policy addresses numerous concerns that students and parents have reported to the ACLU, including: that military recruiters have greater access to schools than college recruiters; that schools place students, without their consent, in Junior ROTC classes instead of physical education classes; and that schools unfairly discipline students for distributing flyers opposing military recruitment.

"The new policy is a solid first step," said Arlene Inouye, LAUSD teacher and coordinator for CAMS (Coalition Against Militarism in our Schools). "We are very pleased that the district is taking parents' and students' concerns seriously and we think this will better protect students who do not wish to join the military and those who want more information so they can make their own decision."

The new policy states:

* No student is required by the school to meet with or speak to a recruiter.

* No student will be required to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, or ASVAB.

* Participation in JROTC is voluntary and students will not be forced to take JROTC class in lieu of regular PE class.

* Students age 17 and older will be allowed to opt out of sending personal information to military recruiters without parental approval.

* The military will not be allowed to bring military equipment or vehicles to campus unless the district has approved it.

* The military cannot suggest students drop out of high school and pursue a GED as a means of recruiting.