By SOPHIA BRANDT
Capital News Service
LANSING – New legislation would authorize schools to create special programs and services for the children of members and veterans of the military.
Under the proposal by Rep. Dale Zorn, R-Onsted, the “Purple Star” schools would provide resources and support to military children.
“My daughter is a military family. They have moved their kids four or five times in a 10-year period. They found other states have the Purple Star designation, and in those states, the parents and the kids have someone in the school district to talk to,” Zorn said.
A Purple Star school is a program run through a public school that focuses on kids of military families.
Schools have to meet requirements for a Purple Star designation, such as recognizing the education of students coming from another state, knowing state-to-state graduation requirements and professional development for staff.
The program is open to all children of a military family, including those on reserve status, current duty and former members or a child of a veteran who died in the line of duty.
Zorn said a lot of people don’t realize how many military members are in Michigan, but with Coast Guard, Air Force, Reserves and National Guard, there is a large number, including more than 4,000 children with parents on active duty.
These schools offer emotional and social support for children of military personnel, according to the Military Child Education Coalition, based in Texas.
Purple Star schools operate in many other states, including Ohio, Texas and Tennessee.Other states recently authorized or are considering similar programs.
Starting a Purple Star school program in Michigan would give military children a place to meet kids similar to them and have support services.
“We will be able to connect students with someone in the schools to help them make the change. It gives a point of contact for families in the school,” Zorn said.
As a family moves from state to state, education requirements shift. A Purple Star program allows military children to pick up where they left off at their previous school and continue their education with a smooth transition.
Zorn said, in a non-Purple Star school, when education requirements change, a grade school student may be held back or pushed up a grade due to age requirements changing from one state to another.
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, military children are at higher risk of mental health issues and trauma than non military kids.
It is common for military families to move often or have a member away on deployment for extended periods of time.
Such experiences raise the risks of mental health problems for their children, says the National Center for Children in Poverty, an equity and inclusion organization based in New York.
A Purple Star program connects military children with other students who have faced similar traumas.
Similar proposals have failed in the Legislature in the past, but Zorn said he will continue to work on the issue.
When Zorn proposed similar legislation when he was a senator, two Democrats and four Republicans cosponsored the bill.
“I think we should always recognize military families and the issues they have, whether that is education or something else,” Zorn said.
The bill is pending in the House Education Committee.