By Lallia Allali, The San Diego Union-Tribune, May 6, 2019.
The increase in hate- and discrimination-motivated incidents in the United States has a major impact on children and their learning journey. These traumatic incidents are the leading factors in childhood trauma, because they pose a threat to the child’s life or bodily integrity. Childhood trauma is also identified as one of the barriers to high academic achievement and success for students. Yet, this issue has largely been ignored by our education system.
Godwin Higa is trying to change that.
An advocate for trauma-informed education, Higa is former principal of the first Trauma Informed School in San Diego, Cherokee Point Elementary School.
Cherokee Point, part of San Diego Unified School District, is in a low-income, ethnically diverse neighborhood known for many social problems. When Higa first arrived at Cherokee Point, he was receiving hundreds of student discipline referrals from teachers and others.
There are many educators who cling to the notion that suspensions and expulsions work, but Higa never believed in harsh discipline. He believes in treating all students with the utmost respect.
“We don’t say ‘What’s wrong with you?’” when a child is acting out, Higa said. Instead, the child is asked what’s happening in their life.