Emails with breaking news
Receive notifications of breaking news and special reports. The news and stories that are important were delivered on weekdays.
By Elizabeth Chuck and Marshall Crook
YAKIMA, Wash. – Instead of fifth-grader Thomas Stevenson went on a Friday in the break and entered a dimly lit room.
Inside, lavender aromatherapy filled the air, spa-like music played and a projector sent clouds onto a screen. Thomas walked past beanbags on the floor and playing chess on tables, took a few Legos and began building an ornate building.
Eleventh Thomas spent his break in this converted classroom, the so-called relaxation room. In his previous school he often got into a fight on the playground. His first school suspension was in kindergarten, the year his parents divorced. Both parents were drug addicted and his father was briefly detained.
The problems at home led to problems at school. In the fourth grade, he was suspended five times.
Since his move to Ridgeview in the fall, he has not been suspended at all – not even because of the work he has done in the rest room.
"People talk about my mother – that's what I've always argued about," said Thomas, whose mother has been clean since 2009 and is now a drug and alcohol counselor. "It's nice to be a kid who's not in quarrels anymore."
Jeff Clark, a school counselor at Ridgeview, created the rest room in January 2018 where students can get help dealing with heightened emotions, including by talking to an adult, if they want.
"Some kids want to focus on fixing the problem. Some kids just need a safe place to reset, "Clark said.
The room is open to all students, but is particularly aimed at those who deal with problems at home such as abuse, neglect or divorce – these are stressors among those referred to by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as adverse childhood experiences or ACEs are classified.
Across the country, with a better understanding of how a childhood trauma affects everything, from a teenager's ability to focus on his or her health in the classroom, a growing number of schools are moving away from traditional forms of discipline, such as Suspension or Expulsion, and experiment with new ways to tackle behavioral issues. This includes encouraging educators to consider why students are behaving. Creating spaces where students can do yoga or play with sensory toys such as stress balls or glitter-filled bottles to calm down; and the implementation of positive reinforcement systems, such as offering rewards such as ice cream for good behavior.
In Yakima, there are classes for anger management in addition to the Ridgeview Retirement Room, and students who are out of trouble can receive prizes like a special lunch. Although the approaches vary according to neighborhoods, the goal is the same: to empower students to deal with anger and other emotions in a constructive way and build a trusting relationship with an adult.
"It's not like the teacher being the mother who lost the baby, or whatever happened," said Susan Cole, director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a joint program at Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Advocates for Children, a child rights organization. "But they will show you that you can have a good relationship with an adult, that an adult will help you to succeed, and that you will continue to build more caring relationships." Crisis of Public Health "
Psychologists began two decades ago to understand the far-reaching effects of adversity in childhood when a seminal 1998 study by CDC and Kaiser Permanente found that adolescent childhood experiences were more at risk for health problems later in the year, life is related, including hepatitis, lung cancer and suicide attempts.
The study found that unwanted childhood experiences are common – at least two thirds of the adults surveyed had one or more ACEs, and nearly one in eight had four or more.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician appointed first California surgeon in January, sees childhood distress as America's "biggest unrecognized public health crisis" In 2020, California will examine all children and adults on Medicaid for ACEs, to help the person concerned.
"I think that the likelihood that we eliminate all negative childhood experiences is similar to all bacteria, our probability that we eliminate them," said Burke Harris. "It probably will not happen, and so we have to treat the effects of negative childhood experiences much better."
Pediatricians can look for ACEs, but schools can also play an important role in educating their staff Be sensitive to the students' trauma. Burke Harris, an advocate of teaching children in mindfulness and relaxation techniques, believes schools should refrain from disciplinary exclusions such as expulsions.
Jamie Howard, a clinical psychologist at the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute in New York City and the director of the Center's Trauma and Resilience Service, said educating teachers about signs of trauma can help them understand the behavior of students to see another lens.
"Children who may be suffering from ADHD because they really are Spacey can actually be distracted by the trauma that has happened. And then children who avoid certain things or have an exaggerated, frightening reaction might look oppositional, "she said. "We had children who refused to go outside the room and write on the wall because they were afraid of doing something they thought was dangerous."
saying, "What's wrong with this kid? "He's so difficult, trying to figure out what happened to him to make him that way," she continued, "that can help you develop a new strategy," for example, with the child one on one
Proof of Success
Lincoln High According to Jim Sporleder, then headmaster, the school in Walla Walla, Washington, is the school's first public school Land, where trauma-informed practices were introduced in 2010. At that time, students who had been expelled from other programs were sent to Lincoln, where they were overrun with gangs of 220 students and had "the most uncontrolled environment I have ever seen ha ", Sporleder, who started working there in 2007, said. Emergency evictions were frequent; The most common response to "any authority was usually a kind of eff you", said Sporleder.
Sporleder decided to change his approach after hearing a lecture on toxic stress at a conference – the impact on a child's health and learning and behavior resulting from her repeatedly activating her stress response.
"When children are in this brain state, they can not psychologically learn or absorb new knowledge," he said. "When I left the conference room, I was looking for a way to change my behavior."
Sporleder told the faculty that she must be aware that acting behavior was not necessarily a reaction to teachers; It could be a reaction to something else in her life. When Sporleder returned from the conference, a teacher sent a student to the one who had spoken back. Instead of applying the usual three-day suspension, Sporleder asked the boy what was going on. To Sporleder's surprise, the teenager was recently disappointed: on his sixteenth birthday, his father, an alcoholic who had repeatedly disappointed him, had not given him a car he had long promised.
"He comes down to a safe place and says: & # 39; The teacher did not deserve this. I should apologize, "said Sporleder. "The power of this story is that it was not unique. It became the norm. I started asking kids and goodness, they started talking. "
Sporleder encouraged teachers at the school to have the same conversation with their students and to focus on building relationships before being automatically sent to their office. It worked: The number of placements to the client's office dropped from 600 in one year to 320. A few years later, a case study conducted at the school revealed that the approach had increased the resilience of 70 percent of students based on their responses to a questionnaire.
Also their grades rose. Those with the highest resilience had the biggest improvements in reading performance and standardized math exams compared to their eighth-grade results before entering school.
The school and its success were featured in a documentary "Paper Tigers," which is often a part of training at other schools.
There is no data on how many US schools have adopted this philosophy, although experts say it is growing in interest. The trauma-sensitive schools conference, led by the nonprofit Attachment and Trauma Network, Inc., grew from 550 participants in 2018 to 1,200 in 2019, with each state represented at this year's gathering. Coles Group, the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, e-mailed instructions to more than 35,000 teachers and parents across the country and even in Pakistan to make learning easier for traumatized children.
"It feels really good that my mother is proud of me & # 39;  Thomas, the 11-year-old student in Yakima, has learned coping skills from Clark, his school counselor, including deep breathing to calm his feelings when he feels out of control. His mother, Breanne Smith, says Thomas' transformation can be traced back to the work he did in the rest room, as well as a behavioral health program for which he is eligible for Medicaid.
Not only is he less aggressive – Smith told Thomas that he kicked holes at home when he lost his temper – but his grades have improved dramatically. His favorite subjects are now mathematics and science.
"His change was just so amazing," Smith said. "He always had that potential, and I think he just needed people who could see it in him and help bring it out."
Clark has strengthened Thomas' self-confidence by giving students in lower grades who have difficulty listening to their teachers leadership positions such as a hall monitor and a "big brother".
In the last few weeks Thomas himself has entrusted Spend a break outside with his classmates and go to the playground. Instead of feeling like a bad kid, he sees himself in a new light.
"It feels really good that my mother is proud of me, my father is proud of me, everyone is proud of me because I've changed since then. I was in this school," said Thomas. "It really feels really good not to get in trouble."
Marshall Crook reported from Yakima, Washington, and Elizabeth Chuck from New York.