With just four months remaining in the Obama presidency, the White House assembled leaders from 14 states and the District of Columbia and key administration officials for a day-long conference, “Trauma Informed Approaches in Schools: Supporting Girls of Color and Rethinking Discipline.” Last summer’s White House meeting, titled “Rethink School Discipline,” covered issues related to the CDC-Kaiser Permanente ACE Study and trauma, but transforming schools through trauma-informed approaches was not a defining theme as in the Sept. 19 forum.
The conference was a partnership of the White House, the US Department of Education, The National Crittenton Foundation, and the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris asked the 200 audience members if they were familiar with the ACE Study and almost all hands went up. Her presentation covered some of the ground she addressed in her 2014 Ted Talk (now with well over two million views). She brought an inspirational message about how each one of us in the room has the ability to be the change, compared the unified science of ACEs to the germ theory, and emphasized how we must get at the root of the root—treating symptoms alone is ineffective. She described roles for physicians, teachers, and law enforcement and the importance of cross-sector collaboration. One example she cited was the ACEs training the Center for Youth Wellness developed with and for the San Francisco Police Department.
Pediatrician Roy Wade, who practices medicine in West Philadelphia, reported on the Philadelphia Urban ACE Study and its inclusion of new ACEs of community violence, racism, and poverty. He is now involved in additional research to address cultural differences that should be included in revisions to the ACE questionnaire. Wade, along with other presenters at the conference, emphasized the importance of involving “experts” of all ages who are living in adverse circumstances to find out what they think is important.
To that point, early in the conference programming, a panel of young women was asked probing questions about their lives and their encounters with people and institutions that have the potential to impact the course of their lives.
Workshops were held in the afternoon and states met to begin developing strategies for creating trauma-informed schools in their states. Susan Cole, director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, along with Rebecca Flatow Zornick of SAMHSA, led a session on policy. Rebecca Epstein, executive director of the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, moderated a panel with Jim Sporleder, former principal of Lincoln High School; Monique Morris, National Black Women’s Justice Institute; and Kathy Szafran, president and CEO, Crittenton Services, Inc. (The top photo of this post shows that panel.)
The conference concluded with report-outs by the state delegations about the plans they are and will be implementing. John King, U.S. Secretary of Education, gave a personal account of how school saved him when he lost both parents at an early age. He said President Obama will support our efforts until Jan. 20 when he leaves office. Rebecca Epstein said the Georgetown Law Center will find ways to continue the work started at the conference and to spread what is learned around the country.
The agenda is attached.