For many military families, a PCS move means the painstaking work of choosing a school district for their children. As you pore over graduation rates and testing scores, question local Facebook Groups, and read reviews, we don’t want you to miss another important designation: Is the school you’re researching a Purple Star School?
What Is a Purple School Program
The Purple Star School program varies by state, but its main goal is to create a friendlier and more supportive space for military children. These schools understand the unique challenges and stressors military kids face, which can impact their social, emotional, and academic well-being. The staff, administration, and students all work together to help military kids navigate these challenges and thrive.
The Military Child Education Coalition recommends that each Purple Star School implements these four core programs and resources:
- A trained staff member who can help military children transition into a new school
- Student-led school programming to forge social connections between students
- A military-family-specific page on the school’s website
- Professional development opportunities for staff
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Supporting the community as a Purple Star School
Many Purple Star Schools reach beyond their walls to honor their community’s military families and veterans. Through activities like school assemblies, classroom guests, and events around Veterans Day and Memorial Day, students learn more about the military and about their military classmates’ lives. In turn, military children see their community and experience validated and celebrated.
Finding Purple Star Schools in America
Many Purple Star Schools display their status prominently on their websites and social media. If you can’t find it online, send an email or call the school. Not only will you get an answer, but your interest might also encourage a non-participating school to become a Purple Star School in the future.
Check here to see which states currently have a Purple Star School program or pending legislation.
Purple Star School FAQs
What does a Purple Star mean on a school?
Because the specifics of the program vary from state to state, a Purple Star on the school building could mean that the school has been approved as part of the state’s Purple Star Schools program. But be aware: It’s just as likely that Purple Star Schools might not have any signs on their buildings or that a purple star might just be a decoration. To be sure your child’s school is a Purple Star one, ask at the front office.
What are the benefits of being a Purple Star school?
A Purple Star designation lets parents know that the school understands military kids’ needs. The school may see increased enrollment or interest among military families, which could mean more funding and opportunities. A school with Purple Star staff training and intentional programs meant to foster diversity could also be more tolerant and welcoming to all students, regardless of military background.
What is a Purple Star School award?
While it varies across states, generally schools must apply at the state level and agree to purposefully create a welcoming and inclusive space for military children. Depending on the state, that might look like extra training for staff, special programming for military kids, school-wide activities to introduce military life to civilian students, and specific school communications for military families. Once the school satisfies the state’s requirements, they are considered a Purple Star School. Some states may require periodic renewal of the title.
What states have Purple Star Schools?
An overwhelming majority of states have signed onto the Purple Star Schools program. As of the date this post was published, 39 states have passed state-wide policies supporting Purple Star Schools and two have bills introduced. Only 9 states remain with no current plans for Purple Star Schools programs.
What does the Purple Star mean?
The Purple Star is a combination of two special symbols in the military community. Purple is often used to denote solidarity across the branches of the military. It’s the color that is created when all branch colors are combined. Purple also is the official color of the military child, and it’s often seen during the Month of the Military Child and Purple Up Day. The star has been used by the military to denote the service and sacrifice of military families. Stars in other colors mean that a family is serving in the military (Blue Star), has been wounded in action (Silver Star), or has died in action (Gold Star).
Joanna Guldin-Noll writes one of the largest military spouse lifestyle blogs online, Jo, My Gosh! Her writing has been featured in national and international publications. She is currently the social media manager at Military.com and the co-founder of PILLAR, a free virtual deployment retreat for military spouses and significant others. Joanna lives in Pennsylvania with her Navy veteran husband John and her puppy Albus.