Exploring Teen Dreams Shouldn’t Mean Sacrificing Privacy

Friday, July 20, 2012

Teenagers need to be able to explore lots of educational and career possibilities – and to do so without having the military automatically know about their personal explorations.  When you’re in high school (not to mention older), you may not know what you want to be.  Personally, I remember that when I was 16, I dreamt of being a physician.  A fan of Grey’s Anatomy, I thought that a rebellious doctor who happens to find a Prince Charming in an all-white lab coat epitomized the perfect job. 

Now 25 and on the road to realizing my current dream of becoming a lawyer, I am working as a Policy Advocacy intern at the ACLU of Washington.  One of my first assignments has been looking at the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.

The test is often taken by students who would like to be a part of the military following graduation.  However, many students take the test simply to explore different career opportunities.  I was surprised to discover that, unbeknownst to thousands of students across Washington, their test results are being released to military recruiters.  These results include a student’s name, social security number, date of birth, sex, ethic group identification, education grade, plans after graduation, individual item responses to ASVAB subtests, and ASVAB scores.

How can such extremely personal  information for a teen be released without parental consent—what about student privacy rights? 

The problem is that students must sign the waiver of privacy on the ASVAB test or they do not receive their test results.  The solution is requiring schools to select “Option 8” on the ASVAB form,  which states that “access to student test information is not provided to recruiting services.”

Seems simple enough, right?  Well, many schools are unaware that any options exist.  Although some schools receive a form with the different options, many schools do not, or do not select any option. This results in the automatic selection of “Option 1,” which releases test information to recruiters after seven days.

Students should be able to explore different career paths during high school, including the military.  But sacrificing students’ right to privacy along the way should never be an option.

You can do something to combat this violation to students’ privacy rights.  Schools need to hear from the community, students, and their families about the importance of respecting students’ right to privacy.  Help the students and act now by signing our petition requiring schools to select “Option 8.”