Yesterday, the ACLU of Utah sent a letter to State Superintendent of schools Larry Shumway raising grave concerns about the privacy implications of Utah public high schools’ use of the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery test, also known as the ASVAB. The ASVAB, promoted as a voluntary “Career Exploration Program,” is a recruiting tool used by the U.S. military. According to the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, in the 2009-10 school year, 8,365 Utah high school students took the ASVAB. The national group estimates that about 90% of those students’ results and information were provided to the U.S. military without the consent of their parents. Parental consent was not sought because schools, not students or parents, select the level of privacy afforded to ASVAB testing information.
This failure to obtain parental consent to release ASVAB results and student information to the military circumvents federal laws that strictly regulate the release of private student information. The Family Educational Rights Protection Act and Section 9528 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act both require opt-out notifications in releases of student information. There are, however, no such requirements in the ASVAB student-testing program. In fact, according to information received by the New York Civil Liberties Union pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (“USMEPCOM”), by administering the ASVAB, schools may be directly overriding parents’ written instructions not to release their child’s information.
Currently, most Utah high schools elect to provide full information about students taking the ASVAB directly to the military. In its letter, the ACLU of Utah informed Superintendent Shumway that the USMEPCOM gives schools administering the ASVAB the option of protecting student privacy and parental consent by selecting “Option 8.” By choosing Option 8, schools provide tests results to students and guidance counselors, but do not provide the results directly to the military. The ACLU of Utah urged Superintendent Shumway and the Utah State Board of Education to adopt a policy requiring that all Utah high schools administering the ASVAB select Option 8. Policies requiring schools to select Option 8 have been adopted statewide in two states, Hawaii and Maryland, as well as in several large metropolitan schools districts.
“Utah should adopt a policy that protects the privacy of high school students taking the ASVAB and the right of parents to control who has access to their children’s information,” said John Mejia, Legal Director of the ACLU of Utah. “In this case, the solution is simple: require schools to select Option 8.”
Download a copy of the letter (PDF) >>