Policy Brief

Md. Puts New Reins on Use of Military Test

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A first-of-its-kind law bars public high schools in Maryland from automatically sending student scores on a widely used military aptitude test to recruiters, a practice that critics say was giving the armed forces backdoor access to young people without their parents’ consent.

School districts around the country have the choice of whether to administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam, and ones that offer it typically pass the scores and students’ contact information directly to the military. Topics on the test range from math and reading to knowledge of electronics and automobiles.

The Maryland law—the first in the nation after similar California legislation was vetoed—was signed last month and bars schools from automatically releasing the information to military recruiters. Instead, students, if they are under 18, and their parents, will have to decide whether to give the information to the military. The law takes effect in July. One other state, Hawaii, has a similar policy for its schools, but not a law.

Roughly 650,000 U.S. high school students took the exam in the 2008-09 school year, and the U.S. Department of Defense says scores for 92 percent of them were automatically sent to military recruiters.

Nancy S. Grasmick, Maryland’s superintendent of schools, said in a letter to lawmakers that the test and score analysis are “free services that public schools often utilize as part of their ongoing career development and exploration programs.” Ms. Grasmick took no position on the legislation in her letter.

Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez said the data are used both to screen students’ enlistment eligibility and to determine their interests and skills for nonmilitary careers.

While Maryland is the first state to pass a law prohibiting the automatic release of scores to military recruiters, some individual districts elsewhere, including the Los Angeles school system, have policies to the same effect. Hawaii's education department implemented its statewide policy last year. Four Maryland counties also blocked the direct release of scores to recruiters before the state law was passed.

Vol. 29, Issue 32, Page 23

Published in Print: May 19, 2010, as New Reins Placed on Military Test
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