Trying to make LA schools less toxic is hit-and-miss; relatively few students receive care they need


The Peacemakers of Harmony Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA.


For millions of troubled children across the country, schools have been toxic places. That’s not just because many schools don’t control bullying by students or teachers, but because they enforce arbitrary and discriminatory zero tolerance school discipline policies, such as suspensions for “willful defiance”. Many also ignore the kids who sit in the back of the room and don’t engage – the ones called “lazy” or “unmotivated” – and who are likely to drop out of school.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which banned suspensions for willful defiance last May, the CBITS program (pronounced SEE-bits), aims to find and help troubled students before their reactions to their own trauma trigger a punitive response from their school environment, including a teacher or principal.

Gabriella Garcia’s son attended Harmony Elementary School during the 2012-2013 school year. The school has 730 children in kindergarten through fifth grade. She says without CBITS, she would have lost custody of him and her other two children. “But for some reason,” she says, “I let him (her son) take that test.”

Continue reading

Terrifying children into a life of asthma

Credit: Cellular Image/Flickr

Credit: Cellular Image/Flickr

Sometimes the clearest indicator of a family’s dysfunction is, unfortunately, illness in its children. Like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, it’s the children who are most susceptible to the toxicity of family addiction and dysfunction. Hurt people hurt people, and literally scare the life out of little kids.

Continue reading

The brain of a serial killer…is a story about child abuse


There are three interesting aspects of this infographic about the brains of serial killers:

  • The acknowledged link to high levels of childhood trauma.
  • That brain scans of psychopaths are similar to others who exhibit evidence of behaviors besides rage and violence, such as overeating, drinking too much, inappropriate sex and workaholism. Rage, violence and the other behaviors are all  coping skills to deal with childhood adversity.
  • That the experts mentioned in the infographic are coming around to the conclusions from epidemiological research in the CDC’s ACE Study, and from neurobiological research about the effects of toxic stress on children’s brains.

brain2You can find the entire infographic here. There’s one part that’s not accurate  — the concept of a warrior gene. Epigenetics research shows that the social environment turns our genes on and off, so any behavior is likely to be a result of an interplay among many genes and neurodevelopment.

And who put this infographic together? Really.

At Cherokee Point Elementary, kids don’t conform to school; school conforms to kids

Kids run to greet Godwin Higa, principal of Cherokee Point Elementary School, during lunch.

Kids run to greet Godwin Higa, principal of Cherokee Point Elementary School, during lunch.


What does ANY of the following POSSIBLY have to do with school discipline?

  • Every day at 7:40 a.m., all of the school’s 570 children start their day by eating a free breakfast. In their classrooms. With their classmates.
  • Every other week, the San Diego Food Bank drops off 4,000 pounds of fruits or vegetables for families of students, and another 12,000 pounds every month for the community. Nothing goes to waste.

Continue reading

A theory of change from Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child

Frontiers of Innovation, part of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, was launched in May 2011 at a meeting of 65 researchers and policymakers from diverse fields. They came with “minds wide open” to bridge their silos and developcreative approaches to help the most vulnerable children in society. This network has grown to more than 400 people.

The video provides a 5-minute look at the Frontiers of Innovation community’s goal of focusing on adults and strengthening communities to build a strong foundation for children’s lives. Here’s a slideshow that reviews the first year of work of this community.

Trauma past and present, and how to move on from trauma in the future


Here are three articles that might be of interest, from separate parts of the country, but interconnected in the growing awareness of how to understand, treat and prevent trauma. The first story looks at how those who were traumatized passed their trauma on to their children. The second story looks at how children who have experienced adversity aren’t really incurable — people just haven’t figured out how to help them. And the third offers some ways to build resilience.

Continue reading

The CDC’s ACE Study summarized in 14-minute video from Academy on Violence & Abuse

The Academy on Violence and Abuse, which educates health care professionals about the often unrecognizable health effects of violence and abuse, produced a four-hour DVD of interviews with the co-founders of the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, released a 14-minute executive summary.

The organization released a three-minute teaser last year. For those unfamiliar with the ACE STudy, this 14-minute puts a little more meat on the bones.

And if you want to know what your ACE score is — as well as how you’re doing on building resilience into your life — go to the survey: Got Your ACE Score? The ACE survey has 10 questions, and the resilience survey has 14.

%d bloggers like this: