March 3, 2014

In letter to Education Commissioner, ACLU of Florida warns that SSNs, personally-identifying information of thousands of students being transmitted without parental consent; reforms called for to protect privacy

March 3, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

TALLAHASSEE – The personally-identifying information of tens of thousands of Florida high school students has been distributed by Florida schools to recruiters for the U.S. Military without the express permission of the students or their parents. In a letter sent today to Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida warned that the collection and distribution of the personal information of students who took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) at Florida schools potentially violates federal laws that protect students’ privacy.

The ASVAB is a multiple choice test, administered by the United States Military Entrance Processing Command. The test is conducted in over 500 high schools in Florida.  The test results indicate a student’s aptitude across numerous subjects and critical thinking skills. Test results also include responses to a personal questionnaire which collects information including the student’s date of birth, Social Security number, sex, ethnic group identification, and plans after graduation, as well as areas of academic and extracurricular activities that are of particular interest to the student.

Schools may then choose to share this information with military recruiters, but in many cases have done so without first conferring with the student or parents as they are legally obligated to do in many other circumstances. During the 2010-2011 school year alone, 37,343 Florida high school students took the test and over 90% of them had their results and questionnaire with personal information forwarded to military recruiters without first obtaining consent.

In the letter sent today to Commissioner Stewart, the ACLU of Florida called for Florida to adopt policies requiring school districts to obtain consent before releasing private student information. From the letter:

"Florida should protect student privacy by ensuring that students and parents have a say in the decision to the release of their private information. Under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), 20 U.S.C. Sec. 7908 (a) (2), for example, schools are required to honor a family’s request to opt out of lists provided to military recruiters.

We urge you to adopt a regulation requiring school districts to obtain consent before releasing private student information to agencies of the U. S. military, and specifically to military recruiters. Student and parents should be informed of their right to have information withheld from either military recruiters, institutions of higher education, or both. Schools should give students and parents the form they need to submit their request in writing, as is their right.

In 2010, to ensure that their schools respect the privacy of student records and information about students, Maryland became the first state to enact a law requiring schools to restrict the disclosure of test results when administering the ASVAB exam. Florida should follow their lead in allowing students and parents the choice of what student information will be disclosed to the military."

The full letter is available at:
aclufl.org/resources/letter-to-education-commissioner-on-asvab-and-student-privacy/

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