Purple star designation for military friendly schools proposed

Nebraska schools that take measures to welcome military-connected students would receive a special designation under a proposal considered Feb. 23 by the Education Committee.

Sen. Carol Blood
Sen. Carol Blood

Under LB5, introduced by Bellevue Sen. Carol Blood, a public, private or parochial school could apply to the State Board of Education for an annual “purple star school” designation.

To qualify, a school would have to designate a staff member as a military liaison, who would serve as a school’s point of contact for military-connected students and their families. Among other duties, the liaison would identify military-connected students and assist in coordinating school programs relevant to them.

Among other criteria, a qualifying school must offer online resources for military-connected students and their families, maintain a student-led program to assist military-connected students in transitioning into the school and offer training for staff members on issues related to military-connected students.

Blood said the average military-connected student moves six to nine times during their school years. LB5 is intended to encourage Nebraska schools to adopt programs that ease a difficult transition for students and their families, she said.

“An important part of any transition for these children of our military families is going to be learning that they aren’t on their own and have a tangible support system in place,” Blood said.

Amy Bonn testified in support of the bill, saying it would help maintain continuity in a student’s education after a move.

Bonn said her son had been receiving additional help in reading at his previous school in Virginia. When the family moved to Nebraska after her husband was assigned to Offutt Air Force Base, Bonn said, her son’s new school did not continue that help, although he eventually began reading intervention and special education.

“I strongly believe that the availability of a purple star schools program would prevent the type of struggle that my son and our family experienced by helping to ensure continuity in the learning process,” Bonn said.

John Hilgert, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, also testified in support, saying the proposal would help children of service members connect socially and emotionally with their new school. By making the transition easier for parents who serve on active duty, he said, the bill also would promote national defense.

Daniel Russell, deputy executive director of Stand for Schools, provided written testimony in support of LB5. He said it would recognize the public schools that already provide programming for military-connected students.

“Moreover,” he said, “the combination of academic, counselling and administrative support laid out in LB5 are important benchmarks for those schools that wish to provide additional programming for their military families.”

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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