Parents Can Withhold Kids' Info From Military Recruiters
July 17, 2009
The ACLU has reminded every Nebraska school district of the privacy
rights of students, including parents' rights, under federal law, to
make sure information about their children doesn't go to military recruiters.
ACLU Nebraska said the notification to school districts followed
complaints from parents that their children's privacy rights weren't
be honored by schools.
Federal law "protects the privacy rights of students so that their
information cannot be disclosed outside the school," the ACLU said in
a news release, but the No Child Left Behind law simultaneously
requires schools to give student contact information to military recruiters."
"Even though schools must comply with No Child Left Behind, parents
still have the right to opt out of the information transfer," said
ACLU Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. "The schools have an
obligation to alert parents to their privacy rights, since many
families have a serious objection to receiving military recruitment calls."
One parent in Lincoln, for example, filled out the 'opt out' form for
Lincoln Public Schools. The parent told the ACLU: "It was difficult
to find the information about opting out in the district handbook for
parents. I finally found it buried on page 39. According to the
handbook it is the parents' responsibility to take the initiative to
request the opt out forms from the school. There were no forms in the
handbook. After several inquiries from the military including phone
calls to my child, I made arrangements to speak directly with one of
the recruiters. They confirmed that they had my child's name, phone
number, and address on a list provided by the Central Administration
office of LPS. I don't know how this happened and I am deeply
concerned not only that it happened to my child but possibly to others."
Miller said such reports prompted the ACLU to remind school
administrators statewide "that the law requires them to honor
parents' desire to protect student privacy."
The letter gives school districts an outline of their obligations
which are part of federal law.
"Not every school district is a problem. Many Nebraska schools take
affirmative steps to send a letter to each family, describing their
rights to opt out," Miller said. "Those schools are a good model for
others such as the Lincoln Public School District, where the opt out
form is not affirmatively provided to families."
Miller said the ACLU is encouraging "any families who have had a
privacy violation occur at their school to contact us so we can
review their case with them."
Here is the text of the letter sent by the ACLU to school districts:
Dear School Administrator:
Since the fall semester is approaching, we write to provide you with
accurate information about your obligations when it comes to military
recruiting and to inform you of various options available to you and
your staff to protect the privacy interests of your students. We also
are available to answer questions or to provide you with additional
As you presumably know, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires
school districts to take certain actions with respect to efforts by
the United States military to recruit high-school students.
1. Schools Cannot Release Any Information Before Offering Students
and Families the Opportunity to Object- Prior to any disclosure of
directory information under NCLB, a school must advise students and
their parents that they may object to the disclosure of directory
information without written parental consent and the school may not
release student directory information if the student or parent objects.
2. Schools Cannot Release Information about Former Students- NCLB
does not authorize the release of directory information except with
respect to those students who are currently enrolled in your high school.
3. Schools Cannot Release Information about any Student Who Is Not a
Senior or Junior- The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S.
Department of Defense have restricted NCLB military recruiter access
to information concerning only those students who are seventeen years
of age or older or are in the eleventh grade or higher.
4. Schools Cannot Release Students E-mail addresses, Ages or
Birthdates- NCLB permits military recruiter access only to student
names, addresses and telephone numbers.
5. Schools Are Not Required by the Statutes to Employ an "Opt-Out"
Procedure- Though many schools have chosen an "opt-out" approach to
military recruitment, some have implemented ""opt-in"" procedures.
The ACLU Nebraska believes that the laws permit school personnel to
choose either procedure. Whether it chooses an "opt-in" or an
"opt-out" procedure, every school must notify students and/or parents
of their rights and give them the opportunity either to permit or to
block disclosure of student directory information to military
recruiters. The school must then compile the positive responses and
give the information to the arm of the military that has requested
it. As long as the school provides a list of names, addresses and
phone numbers to the military, it is in compliance with ACLU Nebraska.
6. Schools Are Not Required to Adopt an "All or Nothing" Approach to
Disclosure of Student Directory Information- Federal law requires
only that parents and students be given the opportunity to withhold
their information from military recruiters and does not address the
issue of disclosing student directory information to any other third
party -- including colleges. Accordingly, even schools employing
opt-out procedures can and should allow students to opt-out of only
7. Schools Must Allow a Reasonable Amount of Time to Respond -
Schools should respond within a reasonable time that permits notice
and exercise of students' and parents' rights to opt into or out of
disclosure. The ACLU Nebraska urges you to protect the privacy of
your students by setting up user-friendly procedures that notify
students and their families of their rights under NCLB and makes it
easy for them to control the disclosure of their student directory
information. The following measures would go a long way towards
accomplishing these goals:
8. Students May Opt Out, Not Just Parents - Students should be
notified that students, as well as their parents, can choose to
withhold their contact information from recruiters without prior
written parental consent. Simple forms can be distributed for
students to fill out in class. Students should also be given forms to
bring home to a parent.
Parents report that they find it most effective if they are sent an
actual form to advise them of their privacy rights. We urge you to
affirmatively provide the information to parents in a manner that is
designed to draw attention to their rights rather than simply
"burying" the information. A sample form is included with this letter
as a model.
Finally, I should advise you that a school that releases private
student information against the wishes of a parent who has completed
an "opt out" form runs the risk of liability under both civil rights
and tort law. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to review
procedures to ensure that the information conveyed to military
recruiters is limited as described above and omits all families who
have requested an "opt out."
Please feel free to contact us if you have questions.