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Survey will benefit military children

Published: 02:59PM January 22nd, 2013

Joint Base Lewis McChord, School Liaison Office is actively seeking military families and military students ... seeking where they attend schools that is.

The School Liaison Office at Joint Base Lewis McChord is going one step further in partnering with local school districts by conducting a survey that asks military members, civilian members and contractors who work for JBLM to provide data on where their children attend school.

Our office works very closely with school districts on working with military families with students in their districts to ‘re-look’ their policies and procedures as they apply to military related children. This can be a challenge as most schools are not aware that parents are serving in the military or work for the military. Schools pride themselves on treating all students equally but as a military parent knows — this is not always the case. Military students bring unique situations to schools in the local community and as much as we would want all children to be treated the same — that is not always possible.

The Army is asking garrison/installation school liaison officers what schools Soldiers’ children are attending. For an installation this size, the survey information gives us a good base point to ensure those schools are providing enrichment programs, academic achievement and emotional support programs. We have 307 schools in more than 22 school districts where military related children attend but we have no way to know exactly how many children are in each school.

Schools do not have a tool that would help them find military children if the parent or child doesn’t identify themselves as a military-related child. To date, only one form asks for information on whether a family is military related but it only asks if the family is active duty military, Reserve or National Guard and it is not a district form but a state form so there is no easy way to track that information into their district databases. Eight school districts currently apply for Federal Impact Aid from the Department of Education and they each have worked with JBLM, but we are sure they haven’t reached all the families for whom the districts could be requesting funding.

It is important for the command to know the number of students in a district for communication, to understand changes and pressures students are undergoing and to provide services that meet the needs of the students and not count on a “one-way fits all” mentality. Public schools should provide for our children in a systemic and responsive way and in turn any child that is undergoing a change in their life — parents divorce and one child isn’t seeing the other parent for example could benefit from services that can help them build their confidence or resilience.

It has been said that the armed services lead the way on how to respond to crisis; this is another way to help schools, after all military related students don’t have the market on stress, trauma or separation, we have just worked with it to get it right.

The survey is asking specific information on any military, civilian or contract employee that has Kindergarten to 12th grade student. The School Support Services office will compile the numbers and begin active conversations with those districts and schools to work towards ensuring that our students have options to them to ensure they don’t lose ground academically as the move into or out of a Washington State School.

We are also hoping that this information can give us a better indication of what is needed in those schools where military children are not the majority but may fall in between the systems. We want all our schools to be successful and we want parents to know the military recognizes that the need for academic progress is on every one’s priority.