Release of student data to military protested
By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
HILO, Hawai'i Public schools have distributed notices to about 18,000 high-school juniors and seniors across the state advising them their names and phone numbers will be released to military recruiters unless they or their parents object.
The notice drew protests from a few parents, who said it was an invasion of privacy for the state Department of Education to give unlisted phone numbers to recruiters.
"I think the American Civil Liberties Union should be on this," said Gina Zapara, a parent with two seniors and a 10th-grader enrolled at Kapa'a High School on Kaua'i. "They're going after all of our liberties at this point."
The notices distributed this week advise parents that if they do not want information released to Army, Navy, Marines or Air Force recruiters, they must complete a form from the school and return it by Monday.
Karl Yoshida, information resource management director for the Department of Education, said the department routinely releases student names and addresses to military recruiters, but has refused until now to release telephone numbers.
New federal laws, including the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act, now require the department to make phone numbers available as well, he said.
Parents who do not want that information handed out must "opt out" by returning the required form, he said.
The department will honor requests from parents turned in after the Monday deadline, Yoshida said. He said the department normally generates a list of juniors and seniors in late October at the request of military officials.
Brent White, ACLU legal director, said the organization had sent a letter to the DOE last week, expressing concern about the new policy. He said yesterday the DOE had not replied.
White said the law allows students not just parents to opt out of providing information to the military. He added that the DOE is taking the wrong approach to releasing information.
"They should send out these forms that say if you do not return this form, we will assume that you do not want your information sent out. That would be completely within the law," White said. "It's incumbent upon the DOE to do everything it can to protect the privacy rights of the students."
Despite concerns, he said, no lawsuit is planned.
Zapara, who has an unlisted number, said she has nothing against the military, but doesn't want information about her children released.
"I don't think it's necessary. I think if a student has an inclination ... then there's enough places they can go and sign up," she said. "They make it look so wonderful and so great."
Aurora Kaipo, mother of a Pahoa School student on the Big Island, objected to the way the DOE notified parents just days before the "opt out" paperwork was due.
"Giving it to a 16- and 17- year-old to just bring the notice home is not an effective protection of our privacy," Kaipo said. "What concerns me is, how many other parents don't even know this is going on?"
Kaipo, who filled out the form to withhold her daughter's information, said parents should have been notified earlier, by mail or at student registration.
"I'm not opposed necessarily to the military or whoever is requesting it to have it. Just don't be doing it behind our backs," she said.
Yoshida said the notices were distributed to students because it was less expensive than mailing them to each home.
Maj. Nestor Colls-Senaha, commander of U.S. Army recruiters in Hawai'i, said the Army uses student lists in the same way as colleges and industry recruiters.
Many people in Hawai'i use post office boxes, which make home phone numbers important, he said.
"It helps us out, because the best way of communication has been through phone calls," he said. "That helps everybody greatly."
Staff writer Curtis Lum contributed to this report. Reach Kevin Dayton at email@example.com or (808) 935-3916.