By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
July 23, 2010 - The Departments of Defense and Education are working together to ensure that quality education options are offered to all military families, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, said here today.
Biden, a community college professor who holds a doctorate in education, said department officials are working together to collect data and research military children and their schools. They aim to support quality education, address the impact of the stresses of military life on school children, and hear from military families about changes that would best serve them.
Biden spoke at The Military Child Education Coalition's 12th annual conference. She and First Lady Michelle Obama frequently visit military installations and speak out about the accomplishments, sacrifices and needs of military families.
One of the things she and the First Lady hear repeatedly from military parents, Biden said, is the important role schools play in their children's lives, and the challenge of changing schools due to relocations. Among other things, changing schools means transferring credits, getting to know new teachers and navigating a new school system, she said.
It is very important, Biden said, that teachers and other school staff identify military children in their classrooms, and are trained to meet their needs.
As an example of that need, Biden said she has not been able to stop thinking about a little girl a U.S. Army general in Iraq told her about when she visited there with her husband over the July 4 weekend. The general approached Biden and told her about a little girl in his six-year-old daughter's class who burst into tears at a recent school concert when the band began playing "Ave Maria." The girl explained to her teacher that the song was played at her father's funeral after he was killed in Iraq.
"I've thought about this story every single day since my trip," Biden said. The Bidens' son, Beau Biden, is a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard who returned from deployment in Iraq last year.
Biden said it is important to educate community leaders, but especially school staff, in helping military families.
"School faculty and staff are in a unique position to support children while they cope with having a parent deployed," she said.
Some 2 million military children have experienced a parent's deployment since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Biden said.
Biden said she and Michelle Obama have issued a national challenge to all Americans to support and engage military families. They are working with the Corporation for National and Community Service to create www.serve.gov, a website dedicated to military families and veterans.
The site is a work in progress, Biden said, but already people can share their stories about supporting military families.
"Whether it's offering to mow the lawn or babysit the kids," she said, "as a military mom, I have seen first-hand how acts of kindness and service can improve the life of a servicemember."