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December 11th, 2015

Students’ Privacy Extends to Military-Recruitment Tools

To the Editor of Education Week:

In New York state, a network of parents and other activists led by the New York City-based nonprofit Class Size Matters were instrumental in quashing a plan by the now-closed education technology vendor inBloom to warehouse student information. Leonie Haimson, the founder and executive director of Class Size Matters, said at the time that inBloom was “only the tip of the iceberg.” How right she was.

Almost two years later, another third party in the Empire State continues to run roughshod over the guarantees of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. I am talking, of course, about the United States military. During the 2012-13 school year, more than 13,000 New York state students sat for the three-hour-long Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB.

In public, the test is marketed to schools as a “vocational guidance” tool, one way the military can give back to the community. In military training manuals and trade journals, however, it is discussed as a recruitment tool. Worse still, students and parents are not always told that the test was designed by and for the military, and that the data gathered are being collected and used by the military.

It’s time for the same educators and parents who ran inBloom out of town to tell the New York State Board of Regents to take action on this issue. By issuing an advisory memo to schools statewide, the regents can encourage guidance counselors to either substitute the ASVAB for some other kind of aptitude test or at least better protect student privacy. Students taking the ASVAB should know that they need to indicate on their tests that they don’t want the results released to military recruiters.
Student privacy matters, whether it’s inBloom or ASVAB.

– Barbara Harris, Director, New York Coalition to Protect Student Privacy
for the Granny Peace Brigade

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