The San Diego Unified School District has frozen the military’s access to student lists this fall while it takes steps to address parent and student complaints over the way the district is handling releases of data to recruiters.
The controversy arose when students who belong to the Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC) began receiving enrollment forms for the 2009-2010 school year that were already partially filled out by computer. The form includes this question for parents: “Is it okay to release your child’s information to military recruiters?” Boxes are then provided to check either “yes” or “no.” Students receiving these forms noticed that, in most cases, the “yes” box was already checked.
After documenting 28 instances of forms pre-marked to release student information to recruiters, ENAC sent a letter to the school district asking that no student information be released to the military until letters could be sent to every secondary students’ home asking if they wanted to opt out of the release. Because the original enrollment form was only circulated in English, ENAC asked that the letters be translated into other languages. Also, ENAC asked that the form be modified in the future to clearly state that students and parents must check the “no” box if they do not wish information to be given to recruiters.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires schools receiving federal funds to release the names, addresses and phone numbers of secondary students to the military, unless they have opted out of the release. The law does not, however, authorize schools to decide for parents and students whether or not they will opt out, which is what San Diego Unified was doing with the pre-marked enrollment forms.
After two parents, a student and a community organizer representing ENAC spoke at a school board meeting on September 29, the district conducted an immediate investigation into how the military recruiter question came to be pre-marked on enrollment forms. It found that the problem stemmed from a statewide data reporting system geared to report school district compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act. If the answer to the recruiter question has never been checked “no” for a given student, then the system automatically defaults to “yes.”
To address the problem this year, the district has agreed to ENAC’s insistence that an opt-out letter be sent to each secondary student’s home. Until parents and students have been given adequate time to respond to the letter, no student names will be released to military recruiters. The district also agreed to modify the enrollment form so parents and students will understand in the future that they must check the “no” box if they wish to withhold their information from recruiters.
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org/)