Schools OK recruiter shield

Policy lets students withhold contact information from military


It will be easier for Anne Arundel County parents to keep their children's information from military recruiters, thanks to a new policy adopted by the board of education this week.

Parents will soon be able to fill out forms on the high schools' Web sites, in addition to the one already available on the school system's site and in the student handbook, requesting that their child's name, phone number and address not be given to recruiters.

The action follows criticism from parents, locally and nationally, about a previously little-known provision of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that requires all public school districts in the country to share that information with military recruiters who request it.

The law allows a student or parent to "opt out," or keep their information private, but some parents have said they did not know of that option, or when they tried to opt out, school administrators did not know how to handle their request.

Last summer, some Anne Arundel County parents pleaded with the school board to make opting out simpler than filling out the form in the often-ignored parent handbook. One parent submitted a proposal asking the school system to also place the opt-out form on the school system Web site, the Web sites of each high school and on the back of emergency information cards that students must return to their schools at the beginning of each school year.

The proposal also asked that a parent or student be given the choice of keeping their information private from military recruiters, but not from other people seeking it, like colleges and universities. In some school systems, it's an all-or-nothing deal - either a student's information is private or it isn't.

The policy adopted Wednesday conforms to all of those requests, except the one regarding the emergency cards.

"I think it's receptive to what No Child Left Behind entails and it's also responsive to our community, the rights they have and the information they need," said Tricia Johnson, school board president.

The form is available on the school district's Web site, but it's not clear when it will be on the individual schools' sites. Still, parents don't have to use the school system form at all.

In the past, informing parents of the NCLB requirement and parents' rights under it fell to school principals, though much of what has now been codified already was being done, said Laurie Pritchard, the school system's director of legal services for policy and hearings.

"Schools are pretty good about sending out information in newsletters," Pritchard said.

Anne Arundel isn't the only county that has clarified its procedures regarding access to student information. Last fall, after several parents complained, Baltimore County schools agreed to mail opt-out notices to the families of juniors and seniors and make the information, and a form, available on the school system's Web site.

But in Carroll County, informing parents hasn't been an issue, said Judy Klinger, supervisor of guidance.

"Typically a high school principal sends out a newsletter in the summer or beginning of school year," with information about opting-out, she said. "If parents miss the deadline, we still try to accommodate them. It's never been an issue, and we've never had any problems."

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