Massachusetts “Safe and Supportive Schools” provisions signed into law, boosts trauma-informed school movement

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today signed into law provisions to create conditions for “safe and supportive schools” intended to improve education outcomes for children statewide, and giving momentum to the state’s trauma-informed schools movement. They were included in The Reduction of Gun Violence bill (No. 4376). This groundbreaking advance was achieved when advocates seized the opportunity to add behavioral health in the schools to the options under consideration as state officials searched for ways to strengthen one of the nation’s more restrictive gun laws in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, CT.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo saw the connection between reducing gun violence and school achievement and was instrumental in the bill’s passage. When the original sponsor of a Safe and Support Schools Act, Katherine Clark, left the state legislature for the U.S. House of Representatives, some advocates were concerned the void would not be filled. Their fears were assuaged when Rep. Ruth Balser of Newton and Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Boston became lead sponsors.

The schools act supporters were jubilant that the legislation they labored on for years was incorporated in the gun violence bill now signed into law, and expressed deep relief and excitement about the achievement. They also said the hard work of statewide implementation now begins.

The law requires the state education department to develop a framework for safe and supportive schools, first developed by a task force established by the legislature in 2008, that provides a foundation to help schools create a learning environment in which all students can flourish. The framework is based on a public health approach that includes fostering the emotional wellbeing of all students, preventive services and supports, and intensive services for those with significant needs.

Within the framework, schools are encouraged, but not mandated, to develop action plans that will be incorporated into the already required School Improvement Plans. The law also provides a self-assessment tool to help in the creation of the plans.

Under the leadership of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI), a coalition of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School, the “Safe and Supportive Schools Coalition” was formed to move the legislation

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Putting resilience and resilience surveys under the microscope

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“Resilience is a message of hope,” says Debbie Alleyne, a child welfare specialist at the Center for Resilient Children at Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health, located in Villanova, PA.“It is important for everyone to know that no matter their experience, there is always hope for a positive outcome. Risk does not define destiny.”

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Troubled moms and dads learn how to parent with ACEs

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A father in county jail is ordered to take a parenting class, but isn’t too enthusiastic about it. As part of the class, he learns about the ACE Study, and does his own ACE score.

“Oh my god!” he announces to the class. “I have 7 ACEs.” His mother’s an alcoholic. His dad’s been in and out of jail. He himself started dealing drugs at age 11, and doing drugs at 14.

“I’ve got two kids at home experiencing the same things I did,” he says. The light bulb goes on.

A few days after a woman who’s ordered by the court to take parenting classes learns about her ACE score, she quits smoking.

“I’ve been smoking for years,” she tells the class. “My ACE score was one of the reasons.” She quit, she says, because she decided smoking wasn’t helping her children.

Another parent of three kids was saddened when he did his ACE score.

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Keeping trauma-informed teachers in Oakland, CA, schools

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Dr. Joyce Dorado, director of UCSF’s HEARTS program

 

by Shane Downing at ChronicleOfSocialChange.org

Last New Year’s Day, when 13-year-old Lee Weathersby III was shot and died in Oakland, CA, nearly 200 of his middle school peers and teachers received therapy.

In the Oakland Unified School District, Sandra Simmons’ job is to help coordinate that therapy on school campuses. As a behavioral health program manager for the district, Simmons oversees crisis response across the district. She has organized behavioral health training and counseling for students, teachers, staff, and administrators for the past five years.

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The Restorative Justice League of Le Grand High School jumps in to save the day

A teen starts a fistfight with a fellow student. Another brings alcohol to school. Another urinates on a fellow student’s locker, and a fight ensues.

Three years ago at Le Grand High School, in Le Grand, CA, these students would have been immediately expelled or suspended. This year, they weren’t. They didn’t miss any classes. They made amends. They learned from their mistakes.

In 2010-2011, Principal Javier Martinez suspended 49 students and expelled six. Last year, he suspended 15 and expelled only one.

This school year, with the help of the Restorative Justice League, he’s going for double zeros.

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Le Grand High School is tucked on the edge of a town so tiny it has not one traffic light. Orchards and fields

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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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Child abuse on the rise; social environment affects kids’ IQs; dying without fear and anxiety

Infant’s broken ribs (Natl. Institutes of Health)

In light of former Pennsylvania State University football coach Jerry Sandusky being sentenced today to spend at least 30 years in prison for the sexual abuse of children, this story out of Yale School of Medicine is noteworthy. Despite many social service agencies experiencing the contrary, until today the expert understanding was that physical abuse of children was decreasing. But Yale School of Medicine professor of pediatrics John Leventhal, Dr. Kimberly Martin of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Julie Gaither, a graduate student in the Yale School of Public Health, found that physical child abuse has increased nearly 5 percent from 1997 to 2009, according to this story by Kathryn Crandall in the Yale Daily News.

The studies completed by Leventhal and [New Hampshire sociology professor David] Finkelhor differ in several ways, most notably in their data collection techniques. Finkelhor considered “substantiated cases of physical abuse” ­— cases which have undergone legal review by a child protective services commissioner and are registered in the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect data system — while Leventhal scrutinized reports from the Kids’ Inpatient Database.

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With kids’ school behavior problems coming from home and neighborhood, schools, home visits can help

You could say that the graphic above, from the Pew Center on the States Home Visiting Campaign, demonstrates the need for a community approach to preventing and reducing child trauma. It’s going to take all parts of our communities — home visiting programs as well as schools, pediatricians, the faith-based community, recreation, clinics, hospitals, La Leche and other breast-feeding support groups, law enforcement, juvenile justice, homeless shelters, courts, etc. — to achieve this.

Schools are getting the picture. Last week, about 500 principals, assistant principals and school psychologists from the Philadelphia School District, which educates nearly 150,000 students, met at a three-day summit to begin the process to replace a punitive approach to school discipline with a preventive, supportive approach, according to a story by Philly.com reporter Susan Snyder.

“We can’t arrest our way to higher student achievement,” said incoming Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., who doesn’t officially start until Oct. 1 but came to town to take part in the summit. “We can’t suspend our way to higher student achievement. We can’t arrest or suspend our way to safer schools.

The local Stoneleigh Foundation is supporting a person in a two-year fellowship to develop a school

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CA Senate unanimously approves ACEs reduction resolution

California Dome & Senate SealOn August 18, the California Senate unanimously approved Concurrent Resolution (ACR) No. 155 to encourage statewide policies to reduce children’s exposure to adverse childhood experiences. As reported on ACEs Too High, the resolution is modeled after a Wisconsin resolution that encourages state policy decision-making to consider the impact of early childhood adversity on the long-term health and well being of its citizens. Since the resolution does not require California Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature, the Senate’s approval is the final step in the process.

The resolution echoes the language of a Wisconsin bill passed earlier this year—the state’s policies should “consider the principles of brain development, the intimate connection between mental and physical health, the concepts of toxic stress, adverse childhood experiences, buffering relationships, and the roles of early intervention and investment in children…”

New programs or mandates are not included in the resolutions, but both provide an important framework for state level decision-making that is informed by the findings of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. The two state resolutions are natural extensions of already robust ACEs-related and trauma-informed programs and policies in those states.

The principal sponsor of the California resolution was Assembly Member Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) who spoke on behalf of the resolution on the Assembly floor and was joined by Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (D-Los Angeles). Bonta said that “sadly and tragically” almost every youth in the City of Oakland has been touched by violence and that life expectancy is negatively impacted by conditions in vulnerable communities. Jones-Sawyer said that conditions that result in urban PTSD are “unnoticed and unaddressed.”  To see these short speeches, click here http://calchannel.granicus.com…d=7&clip_id=2332 and scroll down to ACR 155. The video also shows the adding of 68 members as coauthors.

During the weeks after the Assembly passage and before the Senate action, advocates led by the Center for Youth Wellness built support for the resolution.  Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, was the floor

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