The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, a multiple-choice, standardized exam, has been offered to high
schools and colleges since 1968. It's usually a fairly benign affair. Students take the test and go home.
But at Durango High School on Oct. 29, the test was marred by a gay slur from an Army recruiter from Denver. Students
say he uttered the comment and an expletive in conversation with a fellow soldier in the cafeteria, in reference to
Durango residents he felt were anti-military.
Students who overheard the remark confronted the soldier and reported the comment to school personnel.
While DHS Principal Diane Lashinsky said the test was a good use of students' time, some parents criticized the lack
of notice, and whether it is appropriate to allow military personnel to supervise students.
Greg Weiss, board chairman of the Four Corners Gay and Lesbian Alliance for Diversity, said the comment should not
reflect on the military services.
"The person who uttered it, we don't feel represents the entire military," Weiss said.
Rickalan Kerr, a Durango resident and former Marine who now is openly gay, said military personnel need to be more
accepting of a changing society.
"I just thought it was completely inappropriate, especially in this day and age when there's diversity in high
schools and kids are far more accepting than they used to be of their gay friends and classmates," Kerr said.
Kerr served in the Marines in 1988 before receiving an honorable discharge after suffering an injury. He kept his
sexual orientation hidden while in the Marines.
"If you have to think before you engage your weapon, you should have to think before you engage your mouth, as well,"
Martha Elbert, president of the Durango-Four Corners chapter of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said she was proud of the students "who refused to accept the bigotry" by reporting the comment. Elbert also praised
the school's "quick and decisive renunciation of the recruiter's comment."
Elbert said her own son, Guy, a junior, would make a good recruit. But, she said, "He'd be less likely to join the
military if the prevailing attitude was one of bigotry toward his gay and lesbian friends and family members."
The ASVAB test is widespread. Statewide, 3,754 students in 168 public and private schools took the test in 2008.
According to the program's Web site, asvabprogram.com, the test scores "help students to get a good sense of their
verbal, math, and science and technical skills compared to other students in the same grade cover."
Only 31 percent of students who take the test do so because of their interest in military service, according to the
Web site. Most students are interested in post-high school career and educational plans.
More than 500 students took the eight-part test last week at DHS. Notice of the test was publicized on the school's
Web site and through students' advisory periods. No mailing was sent home to parents.
Keith Owen, 9-R's superintendent, said Friday that Lashinsky did not need the superintendent's permission to decide
whether to allow the ASVAB testing.
Last year, DHS offered the test in small groups.
Lashinsky said she decided to widen the testing based on the recommendation of school counselors.
"It's just a very good test for helping students to kind of see themselves and understand their skills and abilities
and how it relates to positive career choices," she said.
Juniors and seniors at DHS were required to take the ASVAB test or complete a career-related project as part of a
career day. Students who did not want to take the test had to go to the high school's counseling office and sign a
waiver, which also had to be signed by the student's parent or guardian, according to DHS' Web site. Lashinsky said
most chose to take the test.
Freshmen and sophomores did other career-related activities that day, Lashinsky said.
"Each grade level had something that was relevant to their age to work on," she said.
According to the high school's Web site, ninth-graders spent the morning setting up an account with College in
Colorado, a state initiative designed to improve college access for students. The program is offered through a Web
site, www.CollegeInColorado.org, which helps students and parents
plan, apply and pay for college.
Tenth-grade students prepared for the ACT, analyzed their grades, explored career options and made plans for the rest
of high school and afterward.
For the juniors and seniors, military personnel proctored the test, although about 30 teachers also were present.
Most of the soldiers wore uniforms.
Juniors took the test in a gym, while seniors were in the cafeteria, where the comment was made.
Students behaved well during the testing, Lashinsky said.
"Our students were awesome that morning," she said.
Lt. Col. William Medina, spokesman for the U.S. Army's Denver Recruiting Battalion, has apologized for the incident
and launched an internal investigation. He would not release the name or other details of the recruiter who made the
Schools have the option of not releasing the scores to the military, which is what DHS chose.
"The way it works is that a school is able to decide what release option they want for the test," Medina said. "At
Durango High School, it was a 'do not release' selection that the school made."
The school selected an option that does not forward information to recruiters, and Lashinsky said, to her knowledge, no test scores or personal student information was sent to recruiters.