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Parents protest access to student information: No Child law gives data to recruiters

Ohanian Comment: It is always good news when parents and students resist federal bullies.

By By Associated Press

MERIDEN, Conn. -- A federal rule that puts information about students into the hands of military recruiters is raising concerns among some parents.

A provision in the No Child Left Behind Act, which measures student achievement, also requires school districts to provide information about those students to military recruiters when asked.

Now, some parents in Meriden have gone on the offensive. They're spreading the word about a little-known provision that lets parents and students sign forms to opt out, keeping that information away from military recruiters.

''I really had to dig to find this information," said Lucinda Perry of Meriden, who first learned of the opt-out provision while reading a magazine article last year.

Perry and her brother, Karl Chiaro, also of Meriden, printed about 300 of the opt-out forms in English and Spanish, then distributed them to students at Meriden's Platt High School.

''Not one single kid threw it to the ground, and after a while they were coming up to me, asking for them," Perry said.

As the conflicts overseas stretch the American armed forces, many parents such as Chiaro and Perry say they worry about military recruitment practices that they believe threaten parental and privacy rights.

They also think many parents have no idea that they can block recruiters from getting information collected about their child under the federal education act.

Military recruiters have the same access to student information as job recruiters, universities and other post-high school education agencies. School districts must provide the information if they receive any federal funding under the act -- except in cases when students and their parents voluntarily opt out.

The methods that school districts use to notify parents about that option varies widely. In Meriden, it is listed in the school calendar.

''Quite frankly, my experience has been I haven't seen a lot of interest in opting out," said Jeffrey Villar, Meriden's associate superintendent for instruction.

Other districts, including Wallingford, inform parents in a newsletter.

''How many actually exercise that option, I couldn't tell you," said Wallingford School Superintendent Kenneth V. Henrici. ''Some parents have opted out, but I would say it's very few."

Henrici said he recalls one recent opt-out letter that was clearly a form. Such forms, like those handed out by Perry in Meriden, are posted on several Internet sites run by parents and others who are concerned about what they perceive to be a lack of information provided by schools.

— Associated Press
Boston Globe


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