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Public Schools: Free, but at what cost?

Written by: Jersey R. < >
Created Jan 14 2001, modified Jan 14 2001

If you or someone you know is a student in one of our nation's junior or high schools, then the following text is very important as it pertains to your privacy -- both as a citizen and as a scholar.

Every year, many high school seniors graduate from their respective educational institutes; some students plan on attending college or diving head-first into the real world with their diploma in hand. Graduation is time of celebration, as a new generation of Americans leads our great country to the future, a bright future. However, their individual journeys were not all that pleasant. Little did the class of 200x know was that their school was using them for profit.

When a student reaches the point in their life when they decide whether or not to attend college, or even what schools to apply for, he or she will receive offers from third-parties in reference to the upcoming SAT exams or perhaps from colleges. However, the student may receive such offers when they are still attending junior high or sometimes elementary school. Two questions remain unanswered: how and why do they receive these offers?

Question one: how? Their school keeps a very detailed account of every student using their facilities and resources, also known as your permanent record. For those of us who do not know what a permanent record is, let me rectify the situation: your permanent record is usually a file maintained by your local school system containing such information as your: name, sex, ethnic origin, address, telephone number(s), parents' home and work phone numbers, medical history, grades, any extracurricular activities you may have participated in, problems you have experienced with other students (whether it was your fault or not) and any problems the school has had with you.

Not only does the school maintain such records for private and government usage (law enforcement agencies), they also sell this information to other organizations. These organizations mainly consist of colleges and other education-related services (test preparation and tutoring services). In return, these organizations will continually and periodically send you information regarding their school and/or service(s), whether you want them or not. Requesting that a certain organization remove you from their mailing list usually does not work, because your school will continue to force-feed that organization updated information regarding your academic career. Consequently, you will receive even more offers and junk in your mail.

The second and final question is: why? This can be answered in two words: greed and money. Public schools will do just about anything if it means that they will have extra money for "useful and updated material" (vending machines, modern facilities for the staff, et-al). Isn't it bad enough that your taxes pay their salaries? What do you get in return: the exploitation of a minor's privacy (a majority of a students are usually 17 and under) and more junk mail.

There are two things you can do to stop this epidemic: petition your school and town's board of education and speak with the principal and/or school's superintendent. Demand answers and tell them to stop exploiting your privacy for profit. If all else fails, threaten to make this misuse of our children's information public -- then do so. Contact members of the PTA (or PTO), call your local newspapers, notify your town's mayor and state's governor.

Author Website:
American Voters Against Unsolicited E-mail.

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