by Angelica Gutierrez
The ASVAB, a multiple choice test created by the military in order to determine qualifications for military recruitment, has raised questions concerning the potential breach of student privacy and parental rights. The ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) has been used in high schools since 1968. The information it conveys to military recruiters is incredibly sensitive and often about individuals who are under the age of 18, according to the website, studentprivacy.org.
What exactly constitutes the information that’s sent to military recruiters? Consider the ASVAB test like you would the SAT: it provides a detailed report of academic strengths and weaknesses, which can help the military perfect a recruiting pitch to lure young adults into a life in the military. Not only that, but the ASVAB test also asks for a social security number, and not just once, but three times during testing administration. The National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy explains that the testing administrator’s script asks the students to write their social security number on the test and to inform students that doing so is optional. But in a different section, the script says “In Block 14, titled, “Social Security Number,” enter your social security number. Accurate SSN information is important for you to receive your test scores as well as career and academic counseling that is based, in part, on these scores. If you do not know your SSN, do not have one, or prefer not provide this information, leave this line blank.” This delivers a conflicting message to the students who fear that withholding their SSN will somehow compromise their test scores, and who, as a result, enter their number.
But isn’t the ASVAB test voluntary to begin with? While this is true, of the 650,000 or so students who take the ASVAB test every year, 92 percent of them do so without parental consent, according to an article by NPR. This is in direct violation of many state laws, including a Florida law known as the Florida Act on Education Data Privacy, which places great restrictions on releasing student records to outside agencies and emphasizes the important of informing students and parents alike of their rights over student record, as well as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, otherwise known as the Buckley Amendment. But the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, in a recent statement, accused the military of getting around these laws: “The military’s stance regarding privacy rests on their contention that results aren’t educational records and are therefore not subject to the Buckley Amendment. They’re not educational records, they say, because the DOD proctors the test. It’s a military test, not a school record.”
It’s no surprise that in 2010, Maryland passed a law that prevented “public high schools… from automatically sending student scores on a widely used military aptitude test to recruiters, a practice that critics say was giving the armed forces backdoor access to young people without their parents’ consent.” Many parents and school leaders in Maryland felt that the military wasn’t being upfront about the true purpose of the ASVAB test: to recruit students for military service. Here’s a typical announcement about the test, according to the website “Common Dreams”:
“All Juniors will report to the cafeteria on Monday at 8:10 a.m. to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Whether you’re planning on college, a technical school, or you’re just not sure yet, the ASVAB Career Exploration Program can provide you with important information about your skills, abilities and interests – and help put you on the right course for a satisfying career!”
Furthermore, that same article mentions that some schools make the ASVAB test mandatory. How is this possible? A report written by Major Gregory V. Humble, a United States officer, explains that “Schools may make the ASVAB mandatory for students, however a recruiter cannot suggest that schools make the test mandatory students.” But this report fails to mention that schools are awarded extra ‘points’ when the ASVAB test is made mandatory. This to refers to the “U.S. Army Recruiting Command Regulation 601-107 page 25, Item 8, which ranks each high school based on how receptive it is to military recruiters. Schools are awarded extra points when they make the ASVAB mandatory,” according to studentprivacy.org
Recently, when a morning announcement came on at Boyd Anderson High School informing students that the ASVAB test, a “career exploration exam,” would be administered to the underclassman, some students were decidedly concerned. The announcement hadn’t mentioned that the exam was optional, or that it was a military recruitment tool. It was delivered like any one of the multiple announcements about ongoing testing. The morning after, this reporter went to talk to our school administrators. They were immediately proactive about ensuring that students had the right information about the ASVAB test – and new information including this critical detail was delivered to students. It’s clear that the staff at Boyd H. Anderson is committed to student privacy and safety above all else.