Military affairs beat: Texas bill carves time for military families

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 8, 2013 - 7:28 PM

A Texas legislator has proposed a bill to give children of some military service members more time with their parents.

The bill would require a school district to allow a maximum of 10 excused absences for a student whose parent or legal guardian is an active-duty member of the uniformed services who has been called to duty, is on leave from or has returned from a deployment of six months or longer. The current state law requires a student to be present for at least 90 percent of the school year or risk being held back. This measure, first reported in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, would give the district more leeway in recognizing the value this time means to families.

While limited to Texas, the proposal is the kind of thinking that recognizes the special needs of families of deployed service members. The University of Minnesota has a unique program that studies the effect of deployments on military families and offers strategies and skills for improving family communication.

Abigail Gewirtz, an associate professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota and the project's principal investigator, said that the reintegration period can be stressful. She applauded the Texas proposal but also said efforts need to be made to ensure that the kids can catch up on work they might miss.

"Allowing children time to spend this time with their parents enables families to separate and reunify without the pressure of everyday tasks intruding," she said. "Families who prepare for deployment and reintegration -- for example, by developing communication plans with the deployed parent, figuring out how household chores and child care will be reassigned, talking to teachers -- will likely find the transition easier."

The Minnesota study, ADAPT (After Deployment, Adaptive Parenting Tools), is still looking for about 130 more families to participate. Any military families interested can contact the program at www.startribune.com/a1990.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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