On December 3, 2012, the Committee on the Rights of the Child received written replies  from the USA to the list of issues concerning the second report of the United States of America regarding the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Issue #6 dealt with the administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) in the nation's public schools. The Committee has asked for our reaction to the American response.
See below for UN Issue #6, the US response, and our reaction:
UN: 6… Please provide information on the use of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) in schools, the age of children who were given this test, and whether parents have the possibility to prevent their children from taking it.
USA: The ASVAB is administered by schools as part of the ASVAB Career
Exploration Program (ASVAB CEP). ASVAB CEP is a DOD-developed program to help students explore career opportunities, both civilian and military, using information about their current skills and interests.
Participation in the ASVAB CEP is entirely voluntary. DOD does not require schools to participate, nor does it require schools to test all students within a participating school. There is no obligation for students who participate in the ASVAB CEP to talk with a recruiter, even if their scores are released to recruiters. The ASVAB CEP program is offered free of charge to high schools – not directly to students. The ASVAB test is administered by the school to students in the 10th, 11th and 12th grades (usually 15-18 years old).
The scores from the tests are provided by DOD directly to the schools with materials to interpret the scores and to discuss career exploration activities with students. There is no requirement for a school to have DOD personnel conduct score interpretation sessions, but many schools prefer to have trained DOD specialists do so. Decisions as to availability of a student’s scores and other information are made at two levels. The school can choose an option that prohibits any information on any student from being made available to recruiters. If a school does not choose that option, each student can choose whether his or her information will be made available to recruiters.
NCPSP: The statement that each student can choose whether his or her information will be made available to recruiters is absolutely false. This was apparently inserted into the US response to mislead the international community. They probably figured no one would know the truth, and even if someone did, it wouldn't matter to US civilian and military leaders.
Furthermore, the statement, "Participation in the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Career Exploration Program (ASVAB) is entirely voluntary" is terribly misleading. Information we've received through the Freedom of Information Process from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) reveals that more than a thousand schools across the country require students to take the ASVAB. The U.S.A. respondents were apparently referring to DoD regulations that spell out the voluntary aspect of the ASVAB. The USA contends that no school is required by the DoD to administer the exam, but tens of thousands of students are required by school officials to take it every year. Meanwhile, we have identified school officials who thought the ASVAB was required by federal law.
USMEPCOM Regulation 601-4  spells out the "Voluntary aspect" of the ASVAB:
"School and student participation in the STP (Student Testing Program) is voluntary. DOD personnel are prohibited from suggesting to school officials or any other influential individual or group that the test be made mandatory. Schools will be encouraged to recommend most students participate in the ASVAB CEP. If the school requires all students of a particular group or grade to test, the MEPS will support it."
The USA is treading a fine line here. U.S. Army Recruiting Regulation 601-107 "High School Priority Evaluation" Form 446 (pg. 25) directs recruiters to grade schools based on their receptiveness to ASVAB testing and overall recruiting. The form has a slot for Mandatory ASVAB. Mandatory ASVAB testing is awarded 6 points compared to the 4 points awarded to a school that voluntarily tests juniors and/or seniors.
We believe the administration of the ASVAB should be governed by federal law, specifically the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This law provides for parental consent regarding the release of "educational records" in the nation's public schools. ASVAB materials are the only information leaving the nation's schools without providing for parental consent.
We have been in contact with FERPA's Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO). They say ASVAB information fails to meet the definition of an education record because they argue it's a military test that is proctored by the military. They define educational records as those that are maintained by the schools. They say that ASVAB materials are maintained by the schools only after the military processes the information and returns the results to the school. It's perplexing because the USA, in its response, says, "The ASVAB CEP program is offered free of charge to high schools – not directly to students."
In either case, the FPCO officials we've spoken to are unaware of specifics relating to the administration of the ASVAB or the Release Options offered by U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command's Regulation 601-4.
We dispute FPCO's notion that the test is proctored solely by the military. School officials play a necessary and crucial role in administering the ASVAB. Regulation 601-4 contains multiple examples of shared responsibilities concerning the administration of the test. School officials are intimately involved in every stage of giving the test from the initial moment of contact by a military representative.
The test is also proctored by school personnel. In fact, most schools make available several administrators and teachers while the DoD often provides for just one individual to be on sight during testing. Frequently, this individual is a civilian employee of the DoD. School staff regularly serves as proctors or assistant test administrators. USMEPCOM Forms 601-4-11-R-E and 601-4-12-R-E regulate these arrangements.
School officials decide whether to release test results to recruiting services, further suggesting school maintenance of ASVAB materials from the initial stages of testing. Information collected on children through the administration of the ASVAB are educational records and shouldn't receive a pass from FERPA.
The issue is a narrow one: the release of student information to military recruiters violates the privacy interests of those who expect that information to remain confidential.
Why are school personnel given the authority to determine release options instead of the individual ASVAB test takers and/or their parents? School officials across the country are largely unaware of the option to offer the program to students without results being automatically forwarded to recruiting services. ASVAB testing represents a serious threat to student privacy across the country. If the USA truly embraced its responsibilities to the public it would cease the charade of this deceptive recruiting program in our nation's schools.
National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy