Maryland Prohibits Automatic Release of Student Info to Military

by Jean Athey

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a measure into law on April 14 that prohibits the automatic release of student information to military recruiters gathered as a result of the administration of a military test in the state’s high schools.

Pioneering Effort

A cross section of Maryland groups, including Peace Action Montgomery, the Maryland Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, the Maryland NAACP, MD-PTA, the ACLU-MD, and Progressive Maryland lobbied for the passage of the bill.

The law (HB 176/SB778) requires that each public school that administers the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) shall choose “Option 8” as the reporting option for military recruiter contact to prohibit the general release of any student information to military recruiters.  The law will ensure that the decision to share test results and accompanying private information with military recruiters rests solely in the hands of students and their parents.  Maryland is the first state to pass such a law.

“This law closes a loophole in the ‘opt-out’ legislation passed overwhelmingly by the Maryland General Assembly in 2008, which allowed parents to opt out of releasing a student’s name, address, and phone number to military recruiters but did not cover the release of information gathered as a result of ASVAB testing,” explained Del. Sheila Hixson, (D-20), lead sponsor of the legislation and Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Students’ Right to Privacy Protected

Sen. Jamie Raskin, (D-20), a constitutional law professor at American University, was

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the Senate’s lead sponsor.  Raskin hailed the bill’s passage as a “big victory” that vindicates the “students’ right to privacy of personal information and the family’s right to decision making.”

“I was pleased to work with so many civil liberties, civil rights, parent/teacher, and peace groups in this important effort,” Raskin added.

In 2007, the last year for which such data are available, 91% of the 6,816 students in 156 public schools across Maryland who took the ASVAB had their results forwarded to Military Recruiting Services by the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (which administers the test) because the schools failed to select Option 8. Students taking the ASVAB without having Option 8 selected relinquish social security numbers, ethnicity, detailed career plans, demographic information, and three hours of test results to recruiters, often without parental knowledge or consent.  Several schools schedule ASVAB testing for entire classes.

Under the new law, individuals who wish to share their ASVAB results with recruiters may do so themselves (this is an on-the-spot transaction when visiting a recruitment office).  This policy is currently working satisfactorily in several Maryland school systems. Φ

Jean Athey is a Maryland Peace Action leader who has been in the forefront of the effort to pass this legislation.

Additional information about this topic, courtesy of Draft Notices, vol. 31, #2, published by the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD), PO Box 15195, San Diego, CA 92175;

On March 24, the Maryland Senate narrowly approved a measure that will prohibit the automatic release of aptitude test results to military recruiters by public schools. The vote was 24-23.

Earlier, the Maryland House of Delegates passed the same measure 102-37. Supporters of the Student Privacy Protection Act expect Governor O’Malley to sign the bill into law.

Opponents Claim Bill is Unpatriotic

Opponents argued that the bill was unpatriotic and anti-military, particularly in a “time of war.” Senator Jaimie Raskin, who introduced the legislation, said the measure was needed because the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) was being administrated in Maryland’s high schools without parental consult, and results from the test were being forwarded to the military recruiters. To correct this, the bill requires the selection of ASVAB Recruiter Release Option 8 for all Maryland students taking the test. Option 8 allows students to be given the test without the result being released to the recruiters.

The ASVAB is the same test given to new recruiters to determine the suitability for various jobs in the military. When given in high schools, it can provide recruiters with extensive personal information on students that is then used to sell them on enlistments. Currently, hundreds of thousands of high school students are tested by the Pentagon during school hours each year, frequently without the recruiting purpose of the test being revealed to students or parents (see January-March 2010 Draft NOtices).

Bill Was Needed School Districts Agree

Testimony from several supporters of the Maryland bill explained the rationale for the legislation. Elbridge James, a spokesman for the Maryland NAACP, said that parents of high school students should be ultimately responsible for the release of private information to third parties rather then the military. Rion Dennis from Progressive Maryland corrected a widely held misperception by explaining that the opt-out provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act do not cover the release of ASVAB information. Testimony from Cindy Boersma of the Maryland ACLU underscored the infringement of the civil rights with the administration of the test, And Merry Eisner of the Maryland PTA offered testimony similar to the NAACP, explaining that parents in Maryland do not wish to relinquish their right to control whether their children’s information goes to the Pentagon.

Some of the nation’s largest school districts – including New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles – have recently made Option 8 a requirement whenever the ASVAB is given in their schools, and state department of education in Hawaii, which administrators all the state’s schools, has also been implemented an option 8 policy.

Maryland has become the first state to legislatively limit military testing in public schools. In 2008, the California legislature passed a similar measure, but Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed it. A bill sponsor is being sought for another attempt in California, and a campaign in Oregon is beginning to form.  Φ

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