More than half of Tennessee residents experienced childhood adversity; one in five have 3+ ACEs

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In its second survey of the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in the state, Tennessee Young Child Wellness Council and the state’s Department of Health found that 52% of its residents experienced at least one ACE, and 21% have experienced three or more, which can lead to adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.

The data is derived from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey ACEs module conducted in 2012. Previously, Tennessee was one of five states profiled in the CDC report “ACEs reported by Adults – Five States, 2009,” based on data collected in the first ACEs module included in the BRFSS.

“Adverse Childhood Experiences in Tennessee” was released May 26. It balances the prevalence of ACEs with a message of resiliency and hope.  In bold type, it leads with “Facts NOT Fate,” stating, “Like a house’s foundation, brain architecture is built over time and from the bottom up. Positive experiences in infancy and early childhood can build a strong and solid foundation. Negative experience weaken the foundation which can lead to life-log problems.” (For more background about ACEs, go to ACEs 101.)

The report says that the state can do a number of things to prevent and reduce ACEs and build protective factors so that children can grow up to be healthy and happy. Several strategies are included in a section on the opportunities and resources to prevent and reduce ACEs:

  • Increase awareness of ACEs and their impact
  • Continue to collect and use Tennessee-specific ACE data
  • Prevent and respond to ACEs in communities

TN LoraineLucinskiLoraine Lucinski, administrator of Early Childhood Initiatives in the Tennessee Department of Health, provided specifics on some of these strategies. Many presentations are being made around the state to raise awareness of

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Enochs High School students adamant about “Ending the Culture of Violence”

When Debbie Adair began teaching Enochs High School seniors a new unit she had introduced into her English classes called “Ending the Culture of Violence” last January, “eight or nine kids came forward.”

“Most of these kids told me about being a victim of violence, whether they had been molested by mom’s boyfriend or physically assaulted by an acquaintance,” she says. “None of them had received any counseling. And I’m guessing there are more students who did not come forward.”

The kids’ reaction supported Adair’s decision to create the unit on ending violence at Enochs High’s Biotech/Forensics Academy, a school focused on science within the general high school in Modesto, CA. In March, student Alexa Ramirez said: “Hey, Ms. Adair – we should make a video!”

In a whirlwind three days, 70 students (out of 175 enrolled in Adair’s five English classes) wrote, directed, and produced a shocking, inspiring, and totally absorbing nine-minute video, “Ending the Culture of Violence.” When it was shown at a panel discussion on violence in Modesto, it was well received by the 150 parents, students, teachers, and school administrators who attended.

Although the Modesto population tends to be culturally conservative, Adair says nobody complained about the video or the unit. “This is what these students deal with every day,” she says. “If parents or community members are offended, they should be, because this is the world we live in.”

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Just Breathe — the kids in this video explain how to calm your brain

From filmmaker Julie Bayer Salzman’s description on YouTube:

The inspiration for “Just Breathe” first came about a little over a year ago when I overheard my then 5-year-old son talking with his friend about how emotions affect different regions of the brain, and how to calm down by taking deep breaths — all things they were beginning to learn in Kindergarten at their new school, Citizens of the World Charter School, in Mar Vista, CA. I was surprised and overjoyed to witness first-hand just how significant social-emotional learning in an elementary school curriculum was on these young minds. The following year, I decided to take a 6-week online course on Mindfulness through Mindful Schools (http://www.mindfulschools.org/), figuring that if my son was learning about this, it only made sense that I should learn too. Within the first week, I felt the positive effects of this practice take root not only on my own being but in my relationships with others.

As a filmmaker, I am always interested in finding a subject worthy of filming, and I felt strongly that Mindfulness was a necessary concept to communicate visually. Thankfully my husband, who happens to be my filmmaking partner, agreed. We made “Just Breathe” with our son, his classmates and their family members one Saturday afternoon. The film is entirely unscripted – what the kids say is based purely on their own neuro-scientific understanding of difficult emotions, and how they cope through breathing and meditation. They, in turn, are teaching us all …

Landmark lawsuit filed in California to make trauma-informed practices mandatory for all public schools

KimberlyCervantes

Kimberly Cervantes, student-plaintiff in law suit against Compton Unified School District in California.

A landmark first step was taken today to insure that all public schools in the United States be legally required to address the unique learning needs of children affected by adverse childhood experiences.

A class action suit on behalf of five students and three teachers in the Compton Unified School District in Compton, CA, was filed by Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm, and Irell & Manella LLP. The civic law suit demands that Comptom schools incorporate proven practices that address trauma, in the same way public schools have adapted and evolved in past decades to help students who experience physical or other barriers to learning.

The plaintiffs’ legal team is relying on research demonstrating clearly that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are a barrier to academic success for millions of children (see Spokane, WA, students’ trauma prompts search for solutions), especially those in underserved communities, such as Compton, which has a poverty rate twice the California average and a murder rate five times the national average.

According to research from the Washington State University Area Health Education Center, children who have an ACE score of 3 are more than twice as likely to be suspended from school, six times more likely to experience behavioral problems, five times

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The credible messengers: Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 10.11.33 PMBy Pilar Belendez-Desha, YouthToday.org

NEW YORK — The step at the bottom of the ladder was titled calm and the step at the top was titled — in big red letters — RAGE.

“How can you go from calm to rage?” said Heather Day. “We’re going to think at each level how you’re feeling.”

“Peaceful,” a young woman started off the conversation.

“Chill,” said another.

Day took notes at each step and etched her red pen up the ladder as emotions intensified.

“It’d start to get weird,” said a young man.

“Weird? Why weird?” replied Day.

“Cuz, I’m used to crazy things happening.”

“I don’t like people screaming at me,” one youth said.

The group went on like this for 45 minutes on a Tuesday in December. Twenty-two young people from the Crown Heights area were at a biweekly after-school program that’s part of a growing anti-gun violence movement called Save Our Streets.

The youth version of the program is called YO S.O.S. — or Youth Organizing to Save Our Streets. Begun in

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Paper Tigers to premiere at Seattle International Film Festival

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Paper Tigers will  premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) at 7 PM Thursday, May 28, 2015, at the SIFF Cinema Uptown in Seattle, WA. SIFF is the largest and most highly attended festival in the U.S.

Paper Tigers follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Walla Walla, WA, that has radically changed its approach to disciplining its students, and in the process has become a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence and disease that affect families. A story about the school was published on this site in 2012: Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tries new approach to school discipline; suspensions drop 85%

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An additional screening will take place at 12:30 PM on Saturday, May 30 at the same location. For ticket information and other details: http://www.siff.net/festival-2015/paper-tigers

The documentary was directed by James Redford. Its executive producer is Karen Pritzker. To view a trailer of the movie, go to PaperTigersMovie.com.

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What is worth fighting for: Reclaiming youth in trouble

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When black and brown girls are videotaped beating each other down, the blame game quickly starts. It happened when video of a fight at a Brooklyn McDonald’s went viral. Everyone joins in to accuse and shame: What’s wrong with these girls? Where are their parents? It’s all the Hip Hop and Atlanta housewives foolishness. Vile words condemn their character and culture, and they are ridiculed as beasts and something less than human. Some take a hands-off “those are not my kids” approach, while others gear up to sound alarms, alarms that have been ringing for too long.

When black and brown boys are frisked, kneed, bruised and bloodied by the police, you hear the same refrain: They were probably dealing or smoking or stealing. They should have known better. Didn’t anybody tell them you can’t win against the cops? “Why did they run?” some ask, most recently in the case of Freddie Gray, who dies in police custody in Baltimore.

The blame game is a lose-lose conversation. Black and brown children and young men and women are seen as not children, not whole, not deserving of help but as riotous, unfit for sympathy and unworthy of justice. Often they are not seen as fit to have a say in how they live their lives. They are acted upon instead of given the space to be active in their healing, so they can be the ones to restore their communities and organize for justice.

For two decades, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (Bro/Sis) has been in the business of ensuring that black and brown youth of New York City not only

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