Organizing a campaign in schools to require option 8
A brief tutorial
Organizing a campaign to require the selection of ASVAB Release Option 8 in your local school system is a not a terribly difficult or time consuming endeavor. It's something you can do to check the advance of the military in your schools. (This campaign may be used to lay the groundwork for organizing a statewide campaign to require option 8.)
You can do this by yourself, but, if you feel more comfortable, you can work with an established peace and justice organization or you can form your own ASVAB ad hoc committee. It's probably best to de-emphasize any public association with stridently political antimilitary, antiwar groups. To be successful, this campaign should be about student privacy. You're not embarking on a revolutionary movement.
We recommend you study everything on this site pertaining to the ASVAB (including a cursory examination of military documents) and read through the entire contents of this comprehensive website: http://www.studentprivacy.org before proceeding. Study is critical because much of this campaign revolves around educating school officials and political allies. The military, for its part, has embarked on a very clever and persuasive misinformation campaign. See the "ASVAB in the News" section of the http://www.studentprivacy.org/asvab-in-the-news.html website for more on DoD attempts to obfuscate the true nature of the ASVAB program in the public schools.
You'll run across school officials and legislators who are convinced the ASVAB is an excellent career exploration tool that has its place in the public schools. Concede the point. You can allow that the program might help young people negotiate career paths. You're not against the ASVAB; however, you feel strongly that test results should not be automatically forwarded to military recruiters.
For the most part, you'll be interacting with school officials from your community who probably haven't given the issue much thought — or any thought at all. School personnel deal with hundreds of concerned parents and activists on a wide variety of issues every day. Remember all this when it takes your superintendent two months to respond to your letter.
Research local ASVAB testing
After studying the resources identified above, you should create a spreadsheet of all the high schools in your district that administer the ASVAB, using the ASVAB Database of high schools that give the test in your state.
Once you've compiled the data, identify any schools where the number of test takers exceeds 150-200 students. This is your clue that the test is mandatory in a particular school. Mandatory testing a particularly vulnerable practice to challenge, so it's a good place to start. The school's principal, the superintendent, and school board members would all have to be to the right of Attila the Hun if they defend the practice of forcing children to take a military test that forwards Social Security numbers, career plans, detailed demographic information, and 3 hours of test results to the Pentagon without parental consent.
You can find schools in your state and in your school system that require students to take the ASVAB by googling the following terms. We've used Aberdeen County, South Dakota as an example. To search for mandatory testing in South Dakota, enter exactly this in your Internet search engine: "k12.sd.us" "all juniors" asvab . To search for mandatory testing in Aberdeen County, South Dakota, enter: "aberdeen.k12.sd.us" "all juniors" asvab . Make sure you enter the quotation marks. You can experiment with the "all juniors" part. Not only did Central High School require all juniors to take the ASVAB, you can see from the ASVAB database that Central High tested 218 and sent all the results to the Pentagon without parental consent.
If you uncover a school that requires the ASVAB — and 1,055 high schools in 28 states across the country required students to take the test in 2007 — you should try to identify parents in that school to lead the charge. Certainly, you should include a mention of all schools that have mandatory testing in your letter to the superintendent of schools.
It helps to have a child enrolled in the schools, but it's not necessary. You pay for the schools. They're yours. You can start your campaign with your local high school, but it makes a lot more sense to expend your energy at the district level. Schools are curious political fiefdoms and principals often have extraordinary autonomy in formulating and implementing policy. Principals may be retired Marine Officers and they may be Quaker pacifists. You should know how your local school handles the administration of the ASVAB and the recruiter release option it selected. You should have conversations with the principal and the director of guidance, not so much to attempt to convince them to select Option 8, but simply to ascertain the status quo.
The formulation of policy is typically more diffuse at the district level, depending upon the size of your system. More people are involved in the process, so it is more likely that divergent political views will be heard. Certainly this is the case with members of the board of education. Aside from the most reactionary communities, you're likely to have several members of your school board agree with you. Unfortunately, school boards aren't typically involved in the day-to-day implementation and enforcement of policies. School boards typically function to hire and fire superintendents and approve budgets, and that's about it. That's not to say they don't have influence over your superintendent — they do — but often it's the superintendent, not the school board, that holds the cards.
Examine our Template Letter to the Superintendent of Schools. You need to fill in the blanks on this form using the ASVAB Database. Complete your letter and share it with NNOMY volunteers before sending it to your superintendent with copies to all school board members. Your campaign is halfway home.
A few days after sending your letter, you should call the administrative offices to make sure it has been received. Explain what you're trying to accomplish to the administrative assistant on the phone. See if you can gain any insight from the aide. Ask her who you should talk to in the system about selecting Option 8 for students who take the ASVAB. Most likely, you'll be re-directed to the administrative assistant of an Assistant Superintendent. Explain your issue and ask for an appointment. Summer is often a great time to approach these "12 month" employees. They're typically swamped in September. See if you can get an appointment with your superintendent and see what she says. It could be easier than you thought.
Most likely, your superintendent will be too busy and she'll take several weeks to get back to you. It's unlikely she'll come back and say she's opposed to the selection of Option 8. It's more likely she'll thank you for the letter and promise the issue will be studied. Or, she'll write that these types of decisions are made at the individual schools. Principals make up an important part of a superintendent's power base and the superintendent who leaves policy decisions at the local level is usually popular with school principals.
If the response from your superintendent stops short of ordering the selection of Option 8 across the system, you should send letters to each of the system's principals with cc's to the director of guidance in each of the schools. The letter should summarize the response you received from the superintendent and restate the contents of your original letter to the superintendent.
You probably won't hear back from any of the principals unless you have parents approach the principal who have children in that particular school. One-on-one meetings with principals and parents are very persuasive.
Now it's time to go public with your demand
Your board of education probably allows members of the public 3-5 minutes to comment on any item pertaining to the schools. This is your opportunity to shine. Determine the procedures for public commentary and organize a half dozen folks to each speak on a certain aspect of the ASVAB. It would be fantastic to have someone with the PTA leadership in your community speak on behalf of selecting Option 8. Similarly, it would be very persuasive to also have members of other civic groups, like the NAACP, the ACLU, and your local teacher's union, but there will probably be an opportunity for them later, when the ASVAB is on the school board's agenda.
Have all testimony in written form distributed to all board members and members of the press. Be calm and stay away from any statements that might be construed as antimilitary. You could distribute Maryland's law and/or copies of Option 8 policies in Los Angeles or New York City.
Stay away from partisan politics. There is a pervasive culture in some quarters that does not allow criticism of the Department of Defense. Each of your speakers should say we have nothing but praise for the men and women of our armed forces — or something like that.
Prepare statements for the press during the board meeting. Collect their contact information and supply them with updates throughout the process. Organize your core of activists to write letters to the local newspaper about ASVAB testing. Don't take a swipe at your school board or your superintendent, even if you have been treated poorly. Maintain the high ground throughout. You may have to micromanage what your activists wear to the school board meeting. Blue jeans and T-shirts don't cut it.
Hopefully, the school board will include the ASVAB on the agenda of its next meeting. If that's the case, they may ask you to produce several people to testify on behalf of the proposed policy change. That's when you want to bring out the representatives from various civic organizations, especially the PTA. Signs of protest and loud outbursts are counter-productive.
Make sure you distribute all testimony, along with copies of relevant pages of military documents.
At this point we encourage you to set up an automated system* that allows constituents in your school system to click on a link that brings them to a page that explains the issue and guides them through a simple process that generates letters urging the selection of Option 8 to the superintendent and members of the school board. You should use list servs, blogs, websites, Facebook, etc. to drive traffic to the website that generates letters. You'll want to keep track of the number of letters you've received and who wrote them.
On the day of the school board meeting, when the ASVAB is officially discussed, put out a brief press release with a few statements describing your position. Distribute it to local and statewide media outlets, including radio and TV stations. Point out that you're not opposed to the administration of the test; instead it's the automatic release of student information without parental consent that is problematic. Explain that students will still be able to take the ASVAB in school but that they (or their parents) will have to initiate contact with recruiters afterward if they intend to use the results of the test for enlistment purposes.
On the evening of the school board meeting, military representatives will probably be on hand to defend the ASVAB. If it's possible, let them go first and try to rebut their statements, especially if any are patently false. The military officers probably won't mention the practice of shipping test results to recruiters without parental consent. It's your job to point out their omission. It's helpful to be in possession of copies of the military documents, especially USMEPCOM 601-4 to refute the statements of the military officer.
Be on guard if a decision is made to require parents to sign a form for students to take the test, rather than the selection of Option 8. Simply requiring parental permission for students taking the ASVAB — instead of applying Option 8 to all students — creates added costs and responsibilities that would be imposed on schools and school staff if they had to gather permissions and monitor which students' data must be withheld. School staff might then fail to implement the requirement. ASVAB Option 8, on the other hand, entails no financial cost, administrative time, or legal risk for schools; it allows schools to continue using the test if they wish; and it addresses the issues of student privacy and parent custodial rights.
When talking to the press, instruct your colleagues to stick to your chief concern about the administration of the test — the release of confidential student information to recruiters without parental consent. Don't be drawn into statements about the military, military recruiters, or the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. This is a campaign about student privacy.
Throughout the process, we encourage you to consult with NNOMY volunteers in your state and across the country who have been successful in convincing school officials to select Option 8.
- Growing Hesitancy over a Military Test
- Personnel Procurement Student Testing Program
- ASVAB testing legal points, National Lawyers Guild L.A.: ASVAB Memo, NLG Los Angeles
- ASVAB general information
- Organizing a Statewide Campaign to Require Option 8