Michelle Hurley attended 12 different schools in six states by the time she reached high school graduation. “You just learn to deal with it,” she said. “I was in the third grade before I did a full year of school without moving.”
Hurley was on the move often with her family. Her father was on active duty in the Army during her childhood. Each time he was reassigned, his family had to build new relationships and adjust to new surroundings.
Hurley remembers the frustration that came with each move and the fear that came with the phone calls in the middle of the night. Usually, the wives of other military men called her mother for late-night support, relying on the solace of sharing their situations with others.
According to the Department of Defense, there currently are more than 2 million children of military parents in the United States. Each relocation brings with it the numerous problems associated with transitioning between communities and education systems. These issues add to the emotional distress children face when parents are absent for long periods, often deployed to dangerous destinations.
Robert Blum, professor of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, elaborated in an interview with the American Association of School Administrators. “Military families and military children are amongst the most transient of populations,” he said. “With high mobility come issues of engagement, disengagement and reengagement.”
The Department of Defense found that children are affected in different ways at different stages of development. Kids ages 3 through 6 were found to exhibit stress including regression, physical complaints and fears of separation. Older children, who understand the reality and potential dangers associated with their parent’s absence, exhibit signs of fear, irritability and sometimes aggression. Teenagers were found to be rebellious and at higher risk of using drugs and engaging in early-age sexual behavior. These emotional responses can have grave implications for their academic performance.
There are some ways that academic institutions can help ease the burden of transition for these kids. One of the best ways to help military dependent children is to make sure that teachers and support staff know who their army-connected students are. Educators have the resources for how to create a welcoming learning environment for them.
The Fort Bragg School District manages nine public schools, serving about 4,162 students on post. The school system is comprised of one primary school, one intermediate school, five elementary schools and two middle schools. Most dependent children in grades 9-12 attend high school in Cumberland County. High school students who live in the Linden Oaks Community off NC 87, north of Spring Lake, go to school in Harnett County.
A provision under the new Every Student Succeeds Act signed by President Barack Obama in 2015 represents good news for our nation’s schools. This bipartisan measure reauthorized the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act, providing a longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students. Today, high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Dropout rates are at historic lows. And more students are going to college than ever before.
One of the best ways to help military dependent children is to make sure that teachers and support staff know who their army-connected students are.