NORTH BEND — Uncle Sam may want you, but he won’t be getting your information from the North Bend School District.
In response to several parents’ complaints regarding results of an aptitude test that are released to the military, the School District has changed how that information is reported.
At a North Bend School Board meeting on Monday, North Bend High School Counselor Pam Romanko said scores from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery will no longer be delivered to military recruiters, who may use the scores to pressure teens into the service.
The test is offered once a year to juniors and some seniors. It will be administered today.
“Just because we’ve always done something a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the best thing to do,” Romanko said of the ASVAB, which has been offered at the high school for many years, along with the practice of releasing information students provide on the exam form, including Social Security numbers, racial and ethnic identifications.
Designed by the U.S. Department of Defense, the ASVAB measures verbal, math, science and technical skills, as well as student interest in a variety of topics, to determine what careers would best fit each individual, Romanko said. During the examination, students have been required to sign a statement allowing the school to release information to military recruiters.
Since parents Barbara Taylor and Janice and Tom Wilczek began airing their concerns about the test, arguing that the high school’s practice of releasing information violates the Family Education Rights Privacy Act of 1974, the school has chosen to use the test’s least-intrusive release option, known as Option 8, which uses the scores solely for school purposes.
“Option 8 makes the most sense,” Romanko said, adding parent concerns made school administration look more deeply at how and what information is provided to outside entities.
According to a NBSD form titled “Disclosure of Student Records to Military,” dated Dec. 10, the high school will not release student education records to the military without prior written and dated consent of the eligible student or students’ parents or guardians:
“The North Bend High School may release the results of the ASVAB test to the military only if the North Bend High School has received a signed, written consent for such a release from the parent(s) or guardian(s) of a student or from an eligible student.”
It also states that prior to the administration of the test, the high school shall notify parents and guardians; the test is not mandatory; and if test results are released to the military, student names, addresses and telephone numbers may be used for recruiting purposes.
During the board’s meeting on Nov. 20, the same parents urged the district to choose Option 8 or to discontinue the test all together.
Janice Wilczek, who argued with the School Board during Monday’s charged meeting, said she learned that her son, a senior at North Bend High School, had taken the exam last year without her knowledge. She was particularly upset that her child’s information was in a database that could be accessed by military recruiters.
“I have a problem with that. … If my son is signing something at school I think I should know,” Janice Wilczek said, adding she doesn’t want her child to be persuaded by military recruiters. “How can we advise our children whether or not to take the test”
After learning of the school’s decision to choose Option 8, Janice Wilczek said she was pleased, but characterized a letter to junior parents as somewhat inadequate, since it did not address the topic of personal information.
According to a letter dated Dec. 5, which describes the high school’s revamped policy, “the ASVAB scores are solely for school use and are not released to the military.” The letter was sent out last week with junior report cards, Romanko said.
“Students are highly encouraged to take the test and use the results as part of their information-gathering process as they move towards graduation and post-high school options,” the letter states.
Despite agreeing to the change, some school board members began what appeared to be a philosophical argument with Janice Wilczek about whether it matters if student information is released if a teen doesn’t want to join the military. Others said that if a student expresses interest, he can take his scores in hand and sit down with a recruiter face-to-face.
Janice Wilczek reiterated she had been left out of the process when her child took the ASVAB last year.
“I’m just asking for the information so I can guide him,” she said. “As long as my child is a minor, I still get to decide.”
School Board Chairwoman Karen Helland said she appreciated Taylor and the Wilczeks’ passion on the topic, but “It’s grown to be more than we thought.”
She added that the administration had bent over backward to fulfill their requests.
“I think we are human beings with a lot on our plates and I think we’ve done a lot in a short period of time,” Helland said.