After parental complaints last year, the process of keeping Spokane students’ personal information out of the hands of military recruiters has changed.
Last year, high school students “opting out” of lists provided to military recruiters found they were also going to be left out of the yearbook, honor rolls, sports rosters, programs for graduation and the like.
This year, parents can simply check a box on enrollment verification forms, or send a letter to the principal by Nov. 30, to avoid being on the military list, yet still have their information published in other places.
“After observing the response out there, we changed our mind,” Spokane Public Schools administrator Emmett Arndt said of the district’s previous policy.
The issue arose last fall when parents and community members complained to the school board.
At the beginning of the 2005 school year, students “opting out” of lists provided to military recruiters – as required by the No Child Left Behind law – found that they would be excluded from other places where student information appears, like yearbooks.
The federal law, signed by President Bush in 2002, requires schools to provide directory information for students – including name, address and phone numbers – to recruiters upon request.
“Before the school year we talked about FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and directory information, and it appeared to us … if parents wanted to restrict access to directory information by recruiters, then they would have to restrict all access to directory information,” Arndt said. “They had to go all or none.”
The process was promptly changed “within a week” of parent complaints, Arndt said.
“We went about notifying parents through newsletters, and gave juniors and seniors information as well to hand-carry home,” Arndt said.
Though information went home this year on different forms, each high school Web site still has letters posted with last year’s outdated information.
Arndt said schools will update sites in the coming weeks.
Recruiters usually request the information in early December, he said.
The less stringent policies are in place in schools across Spokane County and in North Idaho.
At Mead High School, registration forms sent home at the beginning of the year had the military “opt out” box, said Principal Bruce Olgard.
“Periodically throughout the year, we may then again send the information home in our newsletter,” reminding parents of the options, Olgard said.
In Idaho there’s no certain date by which the recruiters get the lists and parents can request to have their child’s information omitted at any time.
This year, only one student at Lake City requested that his or her information not be sent to military recruiters, said Lynn Towne, administrative assistant in the Coeur d’Alene School District.
“Very few students actually opt out,” Towne said, adding that it isn’t because they don’t know that they can.
“I think everybody knows about it; they’ve been doing it for years … the information is out there.”