There’s no such thing as a bad kid in these Spokane, WA, trauma-informed elementary schools

WTilesWhat’s a trauma-informed school? It’s a place where this happens:

There’s this third-grade kid. Let’s call him Sam. He’s got ODD (oppositional defiant disorder…a misnomer for normal behavior a child exhibits when he’s living with chronic trauma).

Nine-year-old Sam (not his real name) is very smart. But sometimes he balked, dug his heels in deep,

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Q-and-A with Suzanne Savall, principal of trauma-informed elementary school in Spokane, WA

Suzanne Savall, principal of Otis Orchards Elementary.

Suzanne Savall, principal of Otis Orchards Elementary.

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Suzanne Savall, principal of Otis Orchards Elementary School in Spokane’s East Valley School District, says she didn’t really know what she was signing up for, but the words “complex trauma”

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The secret to fixing school discipline problems? Change the behavior of adults

Higa

Godwin Higa, principal, Cherokee Point Elementary School

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Two kindergarteners at Cherokee Point Elementary School in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood get into a fight on the playground. Their teacher sends them to the principal’s office. 

Instead of suspending or expelling the six-year-olds, as happens in many schools, Principal Godwin Higa ushers them to his side of the desk. He sits down so that he can talk with them eye-to-eye and quietly asks: “What happened?” He points to one of the boys. “You go first.” 

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Heavy childhood trauma ups risk of child/teen suicide 51x; so how does a community prevent it?

Dr. Linda Chamberlain lives in Alaska, where suicide rates are “typically double the national rate”, she says in lindathis blog post on the web site of the Scattergood Foundation. She’s the Thomas Scattergood Scholar on Child Behavioral Health this year. As founder of the Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project, she’s concerned about domestic violence and child abuse, which the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study found are risk factors for suicide. She points out how ACEs increase the risk of suicide:

Early adverse childhood experiences [ACEs] dramatically increase the risk of suicidal behaviors.  ACEs have a strong, graded relationship to suicide attempts during childhood/adolescent and adulthood.  An ACE score of 7 or more increased the risk of suicide attempts 51-fold among children/adolescents and 30-fold among adults (Dube et al, 2001).  In fact, Dube and colleagues commented that their estimates of population attributable fractions for ACEs and suicide are “of an order of magnitude that is rarely observed in epidemiology and public health data.”  Nearly two-thirds (64%) of suicide attempts among adults were attributable to ACEs and 80% of suicide attempts during childhood/adolescence were attributed to ACEs.  Further, while system responses to family violence continue to place greater emphasis on physical forms of abuse, the strongest predictor of future suicide attempts in ACE research was emotional abuse.

Holy Toledo. These numbers are nothing but scary. And tragic.

One of the ways that communities can begin to prevent suicide is to understand adverse childhood

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Tiny steps add up to building healthy communities in WA, PA, NC, DE and NY

The Children’s Resilience Initiative in Walla Walla, WA, is one of 42 cities and towns in Washington State that’s using research to improve the health of its community. (Some day soon I’ll tell you the story about how a state built a state-wide community network that pulled off some miraculous and remarkably innovative cost- and life-saving changes, and then how the state — perhaps inadvertently — yanked the plug on the community it built.)

The research includes the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experience Study (ACE Study), studies that show how toxic stress damages children’s brains, and economic analyses that shows how prevention programs reduce health, criminal justice and social service costs.

For CRI, this means taking many tiny steps that add up to big changes. These tiny steps focus on how this community of about 30,000 souls builds in resilience

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Adverse childhood experiences affect unemployment; Maté: childhood trauma is universal template for addiction; “Runaway Girl” — from street life to MBA

Most of the talk about the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) focuses on the link between ACEs and adult onset of chronic disease; depression, suicide and other mental health issues; violence and being a victim of violence. There’s been less attention on the finding that the higher a person’s ACE score, the increased risk of absenteeism from work, serious financial problems and serious job problems. Now there’s evidence that ACEs affect unemployment, too.

When researchers from the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion examined the data from ACE surveys in five states, which included 17,469 people between the ages of 18 and 64, they found that the 2009 unemployment rate of men and women was “significantly higher among those who reported having had any ACEs than among those who reported no ACEs”, according to the study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. Two-thirds of the people in the study had at least one ACEs; 15.1 % of men and 19.3 % of women reported having had four or more ACEs.

Some folks have already taken this information to heart.

When Washington State did its own ACE survey in 2009, it found a “stunning fact”, says Laura Porter, director of ACE partnerships in the state’s Department of Social and Health Service: The survey revealed that “52% of functional disability is attributable to ACES.” Because of how much ACEs contribute to the list of barriers to employment, there’s now a push to integrate ACE concepts into the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helps people with disabilities find work. Many of the state’s communities have already integrated ACE concepts into public health, schools and juvenile justice.

On a national level, ReadyNation, formerly the Partnership for America’s Economic Success, has

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The painful side of compassion emerges when we can’t help a student

[Editor's note: In April, I posted a story about how Lincoln High School reduced its suspensions 85% by using a new method of school discipline. So many people were intrigued by how Lincoln High works that we thought you might be interested in these essays by Lincoln's staff and students.]  

By Jim Sporleder
Principal, Lincoln High School

When you’re working with students that have high ACE scores, not every story is successful. You’re going to experience pain, just as you’re going to experience joy.

Stacy (not her real name) came to Lincoln High when she was a freshman. Because of a learning disability and her mental health, she was identified as a special education student. Somehow she missed acquiring that designation when she was in elementary and middle school. It’s unfortunate, because she had very special needs.

Stacy is a cutter. When she is upset, she cuts her wrists and arms. She’s been doing this for a long time: both arms have dozens of scars. Her parents swing between horrific verbal abuse and emotional neglect. They ignore her cutting or criticize her for trying to get attention.

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Video shows how Walla Walla, WA, high school integrates resilience into school discipline

Washington State’s League of Education Voters (LEV) produced this video about Lincoln High School, the alternative school in Walla Walla, WA, that took a different approach to school discipline and reduced its suspension rate by more than 85% percent over two years. LEV, founded in 2001 by parents, students,

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Massachusetts, Washington State lead U.S. trauma-sensitive school movement

Washington State determined that 13 out of every 30 students in a classroom will have toxic stress from 3 or more traumatic experiences. Those children are likely to be more “unruly”, more “unmotivated” or more absent than the others. Source: Washington State Family Policy Council.

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TRAUMA-SENSITIVE SCHOOLS. TRAUMA-INFORMED classrooms. Compassionate schools. Safe and supportive schools. All different names to describe a movement that’s taking shape and gaining momentum across the country.

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Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tries new approach to school discipline — suspensions drop 85%

Jim Sporleder, principal of Lincoln High School

THE FIRST TIME THAT principal Jim Sporleder tried the New Approach to Student Discipline at Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, he was blown away. Because it worked. In fact, it worked so well that he never went back to the Old Approach to Student Discipline. This is how it went down:

A student blows up at a teacher, drops the F-bomb. The usual approach at Lincoln – and, safe to say, at most high schools in this country – is automatic suspension. Instead, Sporleder sits the kid down and says quietly:

“Wow. Are you OK? This doesn’t sound like you. What’s going on?” He gets even more specific: “You really looked stressed. On a scale of 1-10, where are you with your anger?”

The kid was ready. Ready, man! For an anger blast to his face….”How could you do that?” “What’s wrong with you?”…and for the big boot out of school. But he was NOT ready for kindness. The armor-plated

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