Pat Elder - The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy -
A bill that would have protected the privacy of Connecticut's school children was recently defeated by the Democratically-controlled General Assembly. The legislation was designed to prohibit the release of student information without parental consent.
Parents should be confident that they can send their children to school and know that extremely sensitive information about their child's verbal and math abilities will not be sent to a third party without their knowledge or consent. Parents should not have to worry that detailed demographic information, including social security numbers, are released without their O.K.
Parents have cause to be concerned because the military is excluded from the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). - That's the Federal law, passed in 1982 that allows mom and dad the opportunity to consent to the release of any information about their kids. (1)
SB 423 is a bill that would have prohibited the wholesale release of student information to military recruiters gained through the administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Career Exploration Program (ASVAB-CEP) without parental consent.
Few realize that it's possible for a Connecticut child to attend school, take a military entrance exam proctored by DoD employees and have all the information sent to military recruiters without parents knowing about it.
The legislation would still allow the military to use the ASVAB for recruiting purposes. (2) Instead, a student would have to visit a military recruiter and fill out a form to use the test scores for enlistment. ASVAB results are the only information leaving Connecticut's schools about students without providing for parental consent. It's a violation of civil liberties and it should stop.
Why then, did Connecticut lawmakers give the military a pass? After the Education Committee overwhelmingly approved the measure, the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Commander and the Chair of the Veterans' Committee that killed the legislation mislead the public. It was probably the only way they could derail this common sense measure.
Connecticut is witnessing a military whitewash campaign. The testimony submitted to the legislature by U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Michael D. Coleman is incorrect on a fundamental point. He is not accurate when he writes that children will lose the opportunity to benefit from the Career Exploration Program if SB 423 is passed. (3) Military regulations clearly state that a school can prohibit the release of student data to recruiters but still take advantage of the Career Exploration Program. (4) Schools like participating in the Career Exploration Program because it provides a free career exploration tool that enables students to explore the world of work.
Defending the decision to kill the legislation, Veterans' Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Jack Hennessy said, "To my knowledge, parents already have this ability to limit the dispersal of information and we thought it unnecessary." (5) Hennessy is wrong. Military regulations state that only school or military officials may decide if ASVAB results are released to recruiters. (6) This is why the Education Committee thought the legislation was necessary! Perhaps Hennessey didn't understand the measure. Both Coleman and Hennessey misrepresented the truth to the people of Connecticut.
On Saturday the New Haven Register published a story on the defeat of the ASVAB bill (7) The school officials the paper contacted didn't seem to have a problem with the administration of the test because they've been relying on the recruiting command for information. They're victims of the same whitewash campaign. This is commonplace across the country.
The paper reported, "In New Haven schools, parents are given an opt-out letter at orientation "that allows parents to declare that they do not wish for their child's student information to be shared with military recruiters," said schools spokeswoman Abbe Smith in an email.'"
Smith apparently didn't realize that ASVAB results aren't subject to the opt-out clause of the No Child Left Behind Act. If this were the case, the legislation would not be necessary. This is the same claim Rep. Hennessy made.
Officials at Hillhouse High School apparently told the Register, "The school only shares information with recruiters if the student indicates that he or she is interested in pursuing a future with the military."
This is wrong on three counts, although it is a common falsehood spread by the recruiting command in schools across the country. First, most students taking the ASVAB are minors and they're legally prohibited from making decisions regarding the release of personal information from the schools. Second, students must sign an ASVAB privacy statement that asks for their signature to release information. The statement says the tests will not be processed if students don't sign. (8) Third, the decisions regarding the release of ASVAB results are either made by school officials or the recruiting command, not kids or parents! If a school official doesn't know this (and most don't) and isn't proactive in selecting ASVAB Option 8, then the recruiting command collects the data.
To finish the whitewash, Rep. David Alexander, a member of the Veterans' Committee, published an op-ed in the Connecticut News Junkie "In Support of Connecticut Military Service," in which he advocated circumventing parental decision- making regarding the release of their children's information. (9) In arguing against giving parents the right to consent to information leaving the state's schools and heading to recruiters, Alexander writes, "I can envision that many well-intended parents may discourage their children from joining the military as they enter adulthood post-high school." Alexander refers to the privacy issue as a 'red herring" and argues that "Vietnam-era distrust is imbued within SB 423" He writes that SB 423 "only furthers the cultural divide between the all-volunteer force and the civilian population."
We take the opposite view. The military operates a deceptive testing program that is marketed as a free "Career Exploration Program" while internal military manuals say the primary purpose of the program in the schools is to "procure leads" for recruiters. (10) If there is a cultural divide, as Alexander suggests, it may be lessened if the military acts in a transparent fashion according to the dictates of a democratic society.
(1) See pages 14 & 15 of the ASVAB Counselor Guide where the DoD argues its
case that test results are exempt from federal laws. In short, they say
ASVAB results become records of the school only after those results are
provided to the schools.
<http://www.asvabprogram.com/downloads/asvab_counselor_manual.pdf ASVAB Counselor Guide
NAL.pdf> Rutgers University School of Law does a good job at framing this
issue; so does the
L.A. Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
(2) SB 423 http://cga.ct.gov/2014/FC/2014SB-00423-R000390-FC.htm
(3) Letter from Lt. Col. Michael D. Coleman, Commander, U.S. Army
Recruiting Battalion. Dated 3/10/14:
"Moreover, if enacted students will lose a proven occupational, vocational
and technical counseling tool and the opportunity afforded by the career
(4) "The access option chosen by the school will be honored without
discrimination and without adverse effect of quality or priority of service
to the school." See
f> USMEPCOM Regulation 601-4; Recruiter Release Option 3-2 a.
(5) Veterans' Committee Chair quoted in Vice Magazine. How the US Military
Collects Data on Millions of High School Students. By Charles Davis;
(6) See Sec. 3-2 a. Recruiter Release Options USMEPCOM Regulation 601-4
"Only a school official will select the recruiter release option for their
students. If no option is requested, the MEPS ESS will assign"
(7) Group wants military recruiting info on students kept private by Ed
8) ASVAB Answer Sheet DD Form 1304-5AS
(9) In Support of Connecticut Military Service; by Rep. David Alexander; CT
News Junkie, 4/28/14
(10) <http://www.grassrootspeace.org/army_recruiter_hdbk.pdf> Section 6-2
of the US Army Recruiting Command's School Recruiting Program Handbook