Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Understanding The Military and Special Education

militaryRecently we held our Passport to Success 2010 which is an event filled day of activities enabling students to receive information which will assist them in transitioning from high school to post secondary training or post school employment. I think it is a wonderful event which brings agencies and businesses together for the students and parents in one venue. In fact, I was thrilled to see some parents attend and get involved.

It was my job to invite vendors to the event and was thrilled that in our economic situation, that about 25 vendors decided to attend. The US Army Recruiting Office was one of those that sent a confirmation that they would attend. I was so excited to have them present because so many of our students ask about going into the military.

Yet on that day, two nice recruiters arrived to talk to me and said that if any of these students had “special education” in their records anywhere, the military would not accept them. I tried to explain that not all of the students in special education are developmentally disabled or physically disabled and that some may have minor disabilities that still enable them to attend college. They said that they understand that but that the military doesn’t offer any accommodations like the education system offers and would not take any student who received special education services. Of course, they asked me not to “kill the messenger” because they were just relaying what they were told to do. Then they politely left.

I can understand not wanting to have someone developmentally disabled or unable to control their behavior having a gun in their hands. I understand not wanting to have someone who can’t read or write or understand basic instructions because it would be too dangerous. But that is not everyone who receives special education services! Is this not discrimination?

What I don’t understand is who is lying? I know some students who received special education services that are serving in the military right now. I know their permanent records showed special education services because I have seen those records. I also know that they are performing well and in fact, moving up in ranks. Many current students know these people also and are getting mixed messages here. They don’t understand when some people are saying they can’t join and then others show they can by their actions. I’m not sure even I understand the right story.

I have had former special education students who are able to hunt and even provide food for their families. They have worked construction jobs and some have even worked on their own houses to provide shelter for their families. Some of my students are even quite adept at using computers and repairing them. For most of their jobs, they are required to prove competence and no one cares if they received special education services when they were in school. If they are incompetent, they lose their jobs and that is fair.

How can we deny these students the right to serve our country? Many people complain about our young people not appreciating our own country and then we treat the ones that do in this manner. I also look at the statistics and see how many people in our country have some kind of disability or another. Where will the military draw the line? Yesterday they were accepted but today they are not and tomorrow they might be?

I also think this is setting a precedent for students and parents to refuse the help that a school can provide. I think that many can struggle and possibly survive the school system without help but is that the best we can do for our students? I know that I have taught my students to find out what they need and what works best for them so they can apply it to their lives after they leave my classroom. Could this not also work if they chose the military path? What is the military so afraid of? I know the military came to our school and gave the ASVAB test so wouldn’t that rule out many who couldn’t pass the test? I believe that some of my special education students would be able to surpass some of the general education students in a physical test. Everyone who enters the military goes to basic training which would be one more level for students to show competence.

Is this a way to discourage students and parents from seeking special education services? It is hard enough for the students to face the stigma of having a disability but to me, this is just another insult. I spend hours and days telling my students that they have nothing to be ashamed of because a disability is not their fault. Yet, I feel that it is my responsibility to share this information with parents and students when they are considering special education services. Parents and students need to be given the whole picture and not find out until it is too late.

What do you think? Should this information be shared with parents and students or not? How do we prepare students who want the military to be an option when they graduate? Please share your thoughts.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'The Drill Instructor'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/46042146@N00/1052385311 by: Randy Robertson


Anthony Purcell said...

I find it interesting that they don't accept any form of special education. Gifted students are special education. Are you telling me that our students that are bright and may have really high scores are not allowed in our military?

William Gripentrog said...

I seriously doubt that this is true. I think the recruiters superior is misinformed.

loonyhiker said...

@Anthony According to what this recruiter said, if they are listed as having special services, the military will not take them.

@William I have tried contacting commanding officers and head of recruiting for the region I live in but have never recieved a call back. I have never been given a straight answer by anyone in charge so I can only take the word of the person who told me this. I wish it wasn't true but there is no way to dispute this information.