Maryland Fails to Protect Students’ Privacy from Military

September 1, 2009

Focusby Pat Elder

Maryland has failed to enact legislation to protect the privacy of students who take Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) in Maryland’s public schools.The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, (ASVAB) is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 182 high schools throughout Maryland and in11, 900 schools across the country. The four-hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain valuable information on more than 600,000 high school students every year. In most cases, students take the test without parental knowledge or consent.

Bill Fails as First Proposal in U.S. to Protect Students

In the spring of 2009, legislation in Maryland that would have prohibited the automatic release of private test results to military recruiters without parental consent squeaked through the Maryland Senate 24-23, but it died in a Maryland House committee. Opponents viewed the bill as “unnecessary” and “anti-military.” Had the bill passed, Maryland would have become the first state to enact legislation to protect the privacy of public high school students who take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).student-testing

In high schools throughout Maryland and across the country, the ASVAB is often promoted without revealing its tie-in to the military or its primary function as a recruitment tool. Although the military promotes the ASVAB as a voluntary “Career Exploration Program,” administered to juniors and seniors, the U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s School Recruiting Program Handbook says its primary purpose is to provide military recruiters “with a source of leads…for enlistment into the Active Army and Army Reserve.”

School counselors and administrators in Maryland vigorously encourage students to take the test. Many claim it helps students match their abilities with certain career paths. Judging from the numbers of test-takers from various schools, some Maryland schools require entire classes of students to take the ASVAB. Across the country, Pentagon data reveals that more than a thousand schools require students to take the test. Other schools strongly encourage students to do so.mothersnaturalfoods1

Military Uses Exam for

Sophisticated Recruitment, Skirts Law

The military uses the four-hour exam to gather a treasure-trove of information to use in a psychologically sophisticated recruiting program. After the test is administered, military representatives meet with children to discuss scores and suggest career paths. Later, recruiters make calls to unsuspecting youth — using individualized profiles gathered from test data and other sources. The recruitment of children has become so extraordinarily well informed that recruiters often know if a young man is dating and what his girlfriend may think about his feelings regarding enlistment.

Federal and state laws strictly monitor the release of student information, but the military manages to circumvent these laws. The Family Educational Rights Protection Act, (FERPA), and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), both contain requirements for opt-out notifications in the release of student information. Parents may have the right to stop their child’s personal information from being released to third parties, but there are no such restrictions for the ASVAB student-testing program.

Last year, 8,327 students in 182 schools across Maryland took the ASVAB, and 92 percent of them had their test results and private information, (including social security numbers) forwarded to military recruiting services without parental consent. The same percentage of the 621,000 students nationwide who took the test in 2006-07 had their results directly forwarded to recruiters.

Military regulations do allow schools to administer the test and keep the results from reaching recruiters, but few school administrators in Maryland are aware of that option. Officials in several Maryland counties did not know about the option until they were informed by activists.

The U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) identifies several options schools have regarding the release of ASVAB information. These options range from Option 1, which permits test results and other student information to be released to military recruiters without prior consent, to Option 8, which requires active parental consent to release the ASVAB results and information. As it stands, however, inaction on the part of a school causes USMEPCOM to automatically select Option 1.

Some Counties Have Taken Steps

In state of Maryland, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Frederick and Howard counties have taken steps to protect the privacy of all students who take the ASVAB by selecting Option 8. Montgomery also requires students to have a signed parental permission form in order to take the test.

See USMEPCOM Regulation 601.4 Personnel Procurement Student Testing Program 25 July, 2005, pages 3-1 & 3-2 for an explanation of the various options available to public school systems regarding ASVAB release options: http://www.mepcom.army.mil/publications/pdf/regs/r-0601-004.pdf.

Maryland’s legislation would have simply required parents to give active consent for their children to take the ASVAB. What’s needed is bold legislation that would mandate the selection of Option 8 statewide. Maryland’s children deserve no less. The nation’s children deserve no less. Φ

Pat Elder serves on the Steering Committee of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth (NNOMY). She lives in Bethesda, MD and works locally with Peace Action Montgomery.

Photo courtesy of http://www.counter-recruitment.org.

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