ACLU Urges Toledo Schools to Better Protect Student Privacy

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
April 16, 2009 12:00 am

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Military Recruiting, Use of Social Security Numbers Troubling

TOLEDO- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter yesterday to members of the Toledo Public School Board calling on them to take action to protect the privacy of students. In the letter, the ACLU pointed out that the board’s current procedures of notifying parents and students of their right to opt out of providing information to military recruiters is inadequate. Currently, parents are not given a separate notification and are not provided with a form to opt out unless they request one.

ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link said, “Families must be educated on the risks of providing private information to the government, so they may have honest conversations about whether they wish to participate in these programs. Unfortunately, this information is often buried among a litany of other announcements sent home to parents. As a result, many parents and students are unaware that they have a right to keep their personal information from military recruiters.

In addition, the ACLU raised concerns that parents are not able to consent to use of data collected on the non-mandatory Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. Since the test does not allow parents a voice in controlling access to their child’s private information and test scores, the ACLU recommended that the school no longer offer the test. Currently, officials at Toledo Public School have pledged not to administer ASVAB this year, but could do so in the future.

Along with concerns about military recruiters, the ACLU also urged school officials to remove students’ social security numbers from their emergency contact cards. Reports from the school show that these cards are not always secured and are often taken on field trips where they may be lost or stolen.

“In an age of increasing identity theft, these social security numbers would be a dream come true for many criminals. Since there is no discernable reason the students’ social security numbers should be included on these forms, they should be removed immediately” added Link.

“As technology grows, so does the potential for people to abuse it to gain access to private information. Students may be even more vulnerable than adults and must be protected by our schools and well-informed parents. While Toledo schools have made an effort to respect students’ privacy, they must be proactive and take these steps towards ensuring greater security of personal information” concluded Link.

Read the letter to the Toledo Board of Education, which also includes the student and parent refusal forms.

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