Of the nearly 1,000,000 children of active duty members of the military, around 80% attend civilian schools not affiliated with the Department of Defense Education Activity ([DoDEA] DoDEA, 2018; Department of Defense [DoD], 2018). This creates a need for schools to be aware of the challenges that military-connected (MC) students face and understand how best to support them. Recent research indicates that the prevalence of mental health problems in MC youth populations has been rising since the war on terrorism began (De Pedro et al., 2011). MC youth experience an array of internalizing and externalizing problems, including stress disorders (Gorman et al., 2010) and emotional problems (Chandra et al., 2010). One main concern among MC youth is that they may be at a higher risk for suicidality than their non-MC peers (Gilreath et al., 2016; Reed et al., 2011). Creating a positive and supportive school climate may actually prevent suicidality among adolescent students (Birkett et al., 2009; Hatzenbuehler et al., 2014). However, research indicates that MC students may experience a less positive school climate than their non-MC peers (Berkowitz et al., 2014). This study focused on understanding the experience of MC students within a public secondary school in the Mountain West region of the United States. This study utilized a case study approach. A researcher interviewed five staff members serving as teachers, counselors, or administrators who had been employed at the school for at least two years and who had experience working with MC students. Overall, there did not appear to be a reliable way to identify MC students within the school. Further, participants’ perceptions varied on who they thought was best able to identify MC students and whether it would be useful for staff members to know which students were connected to the military. MC students at the school appeared to be supported through school wide supports rather than through supports specific to the military student population. It is recommended that schools consider whether identifying MC students within their population and implementing supports for these students would be beneficial. Districts, particularly those located near military bases, should consider guiding schools on policies and common practices when working with military populations. State organizations should assess the value of collecting data on military student outcomes throughout their state.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





military-connected, suicide, adolescent, public school