Which version is your kid’s school?

This fabulous video from Atlanta Speech School shows what a trauma-informed/resilience building school looks like — and what a school looks like that hasn’t incorporated these practices.

We’ve done stories about schools that have incorporated practices based on the science of adverse childhood experiences. This science includes who suffers and the consequences (the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and other epidemiological studies), the effects of toxic stress that these experiences have on a child’s brain and body, how the consequences of these experiences can be passed from generation to generation, and the resilience research that shows our brains are plastic and our bodies want to heal.

Here’s a list:

Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tries a new approach to school discipline; suspensions drop 85% — This led to the making of the amazing documentary Paper Tigers, which followed six Lincoln High School students for a year.

At Cherokee Point Elementary, kids don’t conform to school; school conforms to kids — San Diego, July 2012

There’s no such thing as a bad kid in these Spokane, WA, trauma-informed elementary schools — Spokane, WA, August 2013

Q-and-A with Suzanne Savall, principal of trauma-informed elementary school in Spokane, WA    — Spokane, WA, August 2013

The Restorative Justice League of Le Grand High School jumps in to save the day — Le Grand, CA, September 2013

Risk Factors for Today’s School-Age Youth September 2013 (Paladin Technical High School’s 25-point obstacle (risk factor) evaluation)

San Francisco’s El Dorado Elementary uses trauma-informed & restorative practices; suspensions drop 89% January 2014

Lessons learned: Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in a School (planning phase) April 2015

A trauma-informed school wasn’t part of my plan, but now it’s my life’s work — Minnesota, April 2015

Minnesota high school screens students for ACEs to develop trauma-informed education April 2015

Resilience practices overcomes students’ ACEs in trauma-informed high school, say the data May 2015

We’ll be doing more later this year.




  1. I love this for so many reasons. I’ve seen issues in schools many times. Years ago I did a field study for a college class. I was in a special ed class for children with severe disabilities ages 5 through 8. The teachers told them horrible, horrible things because the children were either non verbal or no one would believe what they said. Teachers told the kids that their parents hated them and they got dumped with them (the teachers) and they hated them too. They said that they were disgusting and worthless.That and much worse. They had to change diapers and such and they were so hateful. I just couldn’t believe it and it sent me running from a career in Special Education. Not because I’d ever be like them but because I didn’t know if I could be strong enough to fight what I saw when it seemed there were no consequences to their actions.

    Forward two decades and I’m in my daughter’s high school getting her accommodations for a serious, chronic, physiological brain condition that was worsening. She was 16 and the teachers, admins and counselors were absolutely terrible. They told me I was being over protective (sorry, my hyphen button doesn’t work on this computer), to let her make mistakes, why was this just coming up and much worse. I was in disbelief! My daughter was upset because she said she would be singled out by teachers in class. I couldn’t imagine that could be true. Later, she was singled out because of her difficulty paying attention. She was put on a high stool facing her class for the entire class (causing her physical pain to flair not to mention how humiliated she was) because “oh that’s right you can’t focus. Maybe this will help!” I was so angry and saddened by this but my daughter said if I went to the teacher or admin it would only get worse for her. By this time, I believed her.

    Over the next two years I repeatedly asked to work with admin, counselors and teachers only to be treated as a nuisance helicopter parent. My daughter had needs that they didn’t understand because outwardly she looked fine, and frankly, they were spread thin and didn’t want to, or could not, deal with her needs.

    She didn’t share how bad she felt and how much her brain condition was limiting her. She was often not treated well. She started dating a boy who was also different, but in a very different way. I asked every expert inside and outside of school (her therapist, a psychiatrist, medical doctors, school counselors and admins, police and others) to help me help her. No one would take me or my daughter seriously. This “different” boy, then 18 (as was my daughter), whom she met at school, murdered my daughter. He put her on her knees and shot her point blank, execution style, with a sawed off shotgun loaded with birdshot. I can’t tell you what resulted because of how graphic it was. Was this the fault of educators? No. But every single person that treated her poorly or ignored her/my pleas for decent treatment/help were what I call “drops in the bucket” that led to her death.

    The reason I post is to reinforce how very important it is to treat our children as beings that matter in this world because, in the worst case, they can end up no longer in this world. Additionally, they could be the person who took another soul from the world. If he had been treated better by those around him, I do not believe he would have killed my child. I am not in a mental space where I can advocate for him specifically. It is too hard. But I do speak publicly regarding these issues and Teen Dating Abuse Prevention. If people would have actually cared about helping HIM, I don’t think he would have done it. His mom tried to get him help many, many times. It is, of course, debatable what would have changed in this situation. But generally, a world that leads to this kind of action is not a healthy world. Change must happen.


  2. My organization is very lucky to work with devoted staff and powerful young women from Thomas Riley High School in Los Angeles. The school serves women and girls that are pregnant and/or parenting while on their way to finish high school. There are numerous resources provided that help these students succeed in school and life as a young parent.



  3. The National Alliance For Targeted Parents, (www.targetedparent.com) an organization of parents who have children with ACE scores of 8+ because their children have been “placed” with their narcissistic/borderline parent, has a a new program for partnering with schools. Please see our website page “School Partnerships” for all the details, and a copy of our Special Report (2016) Adverse Childhood Experiences, Child Psychological Maltreatment and the Narcissistic (borderline) Parent.

    Kay A, Johnson (a.K.a. targetedmom)
    Executive Director
    The National Alliance For Targeted Parents


  4. We really need some solid facts on remediation outcomes and education that actually changes behaviors – in professionals. We know nothing is more important then childhood trauma. We have those facts. We just don’t know what “moves the needle” in changing behaviors of professionals in this domain – or any really. Suppose there will just be a bunch of, somewhat random, efforts and hopefully some learning about what works – measurably.


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