Recruiter misled students, a Navy investigation finds
Because of the Kapolei High case, students’ information will be held unless they approve
By Susan Essoyan
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 31, 2009
A military recruiter accused of using false promises to lure two Kapolei students into enlisting in the Navy has been pulled off recruiting and given shipboard duty after a Navy investigation concluded he had misled the boys.
Partly in response to that case, Hawaii’s public schools will no longer give student contact information and test scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery to recruiters unless students go to a recruiting station off campus and sign a form expressly requesting the information be given.
“There were cases that came to our attention, and we started investigating and came up with a consistent statewide procedure to protect student privacy,” said Helen Uyehara, information specialist in the Department of Education’s Information Resource Management Branch. “No information through ASVAB will go to the recruiter.”
In the past, the decision was left to the schools, and most of them automatically released student information and scores to military recruiters, which was the default option if no preference was indicated. Such information included a student’s phone number, address, Social Security number and career interests.
The issue of student recruiting surfaced locally in June 2008 when the Star-Bulletin reported on the case of Cory Miyasato and Joseph Mauga Jr., who said they were railroaded into joining the Navy under false pretenses. They were about to graduate from Kapolei High School when a fast-talking recruiter persuaded them to enlist, promising them a free four-year college education before going to sea, among other things.
The recruiter, Petty Officer 1st Class Jimmy Pecadeso, contacted them by phone because he had already been banned from the Kapolei campus for his questionable tactics. The boys and their parents appealed to the Navy Recruiting Command to void their contracts and investigate the recruiter.
The investigation concluded the recruiter was at fault, according to a July 31 letter from K.S. Southwell, head of the Congressional and Special Inquiries Branch of the Office of the Inspector General, Navy Recruiting Command.
“Misrepresentation or deception shall not be tolerated,” Southwell wrote in the letter, which was sent to state Sen. Mike Gabbard, who has been acting as an advocate for Miyasato. “The allegation that his Navy recruiter misled Mr. Miyasato concerning his enlistment entitlements was substantiated.”
The letter continued, “As you are aware, Mr. Miyasato has been released from the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program. We can also report that the Navy recruiter in this case has transferred out of recruiting and is currently assigned to an afloat command aboard a naval vessel.”
Last week the boys’ mothers were relieved that the recruiter had been found at fault. Both boys are doing well at Leeward Community College.
“I finally feel some peace, closure,” said Miyasato’s mother, Jayne Arasaki. “I’m so glad that we made a difference and that policies have been changed. That’s an added benefit.”
Arasaki and Mauga’s mother, Gloria, testified before the Board of Education late last year, along with other teachers and community advocates concerned about recruiter tactics and access to student information.
In January the father of a Konawaena High School student also contacted the Board of Education, incensed that his son’s personal information had been released to a Marine recruiter who he said used “unscrupulous methods” to try and enlist his son. The parent had filled out an “opt-out” form to shield his son from recruiter contact under the No Child Left Behind Act. But that form does not apply to the ASVAB test.
Starting this year, however, no student information should go to recruiters through the ASVAB test because schools will no longer release it. In addition, students will no longer have to sign the Privacy Act statement on the test that is normally required by the military before tests are scored, Uyehara said. Now students will have to go to a recruiting office and sign a form if they wish to have their scores and contact information released to recruiters.
“It puts the parents and student in the driver’s seat,” said Kyle Kajihiro, area program director of the American Friends Service Committee, which had lobbied the school board to respect student privacy. “This will benefit all the students in public education in the state of Hawaii.”
“I think this is probably one of the most far-reaching policies of its kind in the U.S.,” he said. “The key principle is prior informed consent. That’s the gold standard in terms of ensuring that whatever happens with someone’s information, they know ahead of time and they give permission for it to be released.”
Joe Stephenson, ASVAB program coordinator for the Honolulu Military Entrance Processing Station, said the test is a useful tool for all students. Most students who take the free test are not interested in military careers.
“Roughly a good 70 to 75 percent of the people who take ASVAB want to go to college or a trade or technical school,” he said. “Only about 9 percent indicate they want to use their scores to go into the military. It’s a great assessment tool, academically and occupationally. It compares them to their peers nationwide.”
Both public and private schools offer it. McKinley High School plans to give the test on Sept. 10 on a voluntary basis to students who have permission from their parents as well as teachers, said Jenny Taufa, career coordinator at the school.
“We encourage students to take the ASVAB mainly for career exploration,” she said. “It’s a useful career tool, even if you don’t want to go into the military, because it measures all of their strengths. It is the only test that really measures everything, including mechanical strengths.”
Students, parents can block information report
Sept. 15 is the deadline for public school students to submit “opt-out” forms to prevent disclosure of their contact information to recruiters under the No Child Left Behind Act.
The form can be signed by the student or a parent or guardian and is available on the Department of Education’s Web site, doe.k12.hi.us.
Opt-out requests will be accepted at any time, but the department is required to turn over a list of secondary students’ names, addresses and phone numbers to the Inter-Service Recruitment Council in mid-October.