PITTSFIELD — The nation's conflict with Iran sparked confusion and fear over a draft this week, said Superintendent Jason McCandless, who sought to quell them with a note home to families.
The email, sent Wednesday afternoon, outlines the difference between registering for draft eligibility and the draft itself. McCandless referred to misinformation shared via social media that described the draft as imminent.
"Much inaccurate information is being shared via social media, so we wanted to share how the draft actually works — and how you can better help the young person you love deal with the stress and anxiety the times may be creating in them," he wrote.
Students' anxiety stems from the growing tension between Iran and the U.S. government, which killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani last week after Iranian-backed militia stormed a U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Iranian leaders responded to the killing Tuesday with missile strikes against two U.S. bases in Iraq.
While the U.S. Congress could call for a draft in the event of a national emergency, he wrote, the mandatory military enrollment mechanism hasn't been used since 1973.
"Our country is well-served by brave women and men who volunteer to put themselves in harm's way both here and around the world to protect people, property, and ideals," McCandless said in the email.
Meantime, he said the "selective service" system requires that all male students register for a potential draft when they turn 18. With that information the government keeps a national database of men ages 18 to 25 who could be called for service.
Immigrants living in the U.S. who are not yet citizens must also register, he said, and while women can choose to serve they are not required to register for draft eligibility.
"Please remind students that Selective Service registration is not being drafted. It is a database from which a draft could potentially occur," the Pittsfield superintendent wrote.
McCandless said the government could choose to jail students or withhold student loans for eligible young men who fail to register.
"Students who are completing a FAFSA for student loan applications will be asked if they have registered and this could be a source of questions for them," he added.
While opinions might differ regarding potential war — and all the possibilities that come with it — McCandless demanded respect for varying viewpoints. And he said those wishing to participate in protests during school hours must do so with their parents' permission for dismissal.
"Though the world can often be unpredictable, we will work to provide a consistent and predictable school experience," he said. "As always, we have counseling staff available to meet with students experiencing anxiety or concerns as needed."
Amanda Drane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.