California has moved closer to passing Assembly Bill 2994, which would grant high school students greater protection from aggressive military recruiters.
The legislation, introduced by Assembly members Sally Lieber (D-Mountain View) and Loni Hancock (D-East SF Bay), passed the Assembly education and veterans affairs committees and was approved by the full Assembly by a vote of 45 to 33. It then passed the Senate education committee and was headed for a floor vote in the Senate at the time of our newsletter publication. If passed by the Senate, it will go to Gov. Schwarzenegger for his signature or veto.
AB 2994 would make it easier for parents and students to learn about and exercise their right to opt out when high schools release student names, addresses and phone numbers to military recruiters and colleges. The release of this information is required for schools to receive federal education funds, though parents and students can ask to be excluded. AB 2994 would place the opt-out notice on the emergency information cards that are often completed when students register for school. Check-off boxes would be included to separately indicate if a student’s contact information is to be withheld from the military and/or colleges.
AB 2994 would also stop the practice of recruiters using the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to extract much more detailed data on students when this test is given in approximately 14,000 high schools each year. The ASVAB is offered to schools on a voluntary basis, yet many of the almost 600,000 10th-12th grade students who take it are not given a choice by their schools. Furthermore, the materials that describe the test do not make it clear that all the data -- which includes a student’s contact information, Social Security number, race, gender, future plans, and aptitude profile -- will be automatically turned over to recruiters. There is no law requiring that parents be notified of this, even though the vast majority of students tested are under the age of 18, and the privacy act statement that students are asked to sign when they take the ASVAB does not state that it is used for recruiting.
The military does allow schools the option of administering the ASVAB without test information being used for recruitment purposes, but this non-recruitment option is not highlighted and, according to the Military Entrance Processing Command, it was chosen by less than six percent of the schools that gave the test in fiscal year 2007. AB 2994 would mandate that all schools electing to use the ASVAB in California choose the non-recruitment option.
The state of Maryland has adopted a law that is similar to the opt-out portion of AB 2994, but it does not address the ASVAB. Efforts are now underway in Maryland to introduce legislation that would.
Some school districts have individually adopted policies to make it easier to opt out of the student contact lists that schools must release to recruiters, but many more school districts have buried the opt-out notification where few parents will read it or have stipulated that students must opt out of other desirable releases of information (e.g., via the yearbook or to colleges) if they decline to give their contact information to the military. State legislation has been needed to correct these problems and inconsistencies.
In July, teacher activists from Los Angeles are planning to introduce resolutions in favor of restricting high school ASVAB testing at the annual conventions of the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association. Los Angeles Unified is one of several individual school districts that now requires the non-release option for any ASVAB testing. The others include two large districts in Maryland, and the District of Columbia has suspended ASVAB testing until an alternative career aptitude test can be adopted.
Urgent action needed:
If AB 2994 passes the state legislature, residents of California can boost the chances of it becoming law by writing to Gov. Schwarzenegger and urging him to sign it when it comes to his desk:
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Email: go to http://gov.ca.gov/interact
In 2006, Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill that would have required placing the opt-out notice and check-off boxes on school emergency information cards. He argued that federal and state law already established the method for parents to opt out when schools release student lists to colleges and the military. He was wrong, however, because neither federal nor state law specifies a particular method for exercising the opt-out right, which is why there are problems with the procedure in some school districts and why AB 2994 is needed. Also, it should be pointed out to the governor that in addition to opt-out, AB 2994 addresses privacy violations when the ASVAB is given in high schools. There is no law of any kind regulating ASVAB testing, and therefore parents are not being asked for informed consent before their under-age children are given the test.
For more information on AB 2994, contact COMD. The full text of the bill is available online at www.ca.gov.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org)