Does Betsy DeVos Understand the Impact of Poverty and Trauma on Children’s Learning? []


Educators who look at learning from a developmental perspective know that the trauma and toxic stress associated with poverty can seriously interfere with a child’s brain development and inhibit learning.  Children who have been overwhelmed by stress or exposure to violence, and experience lack of security frequently have difficulty controlling impulsive behavior and focusing their attention on tasks at school.  While these behaviors are disruptive in classrooms – they are devastating to the children themselves.

We understand neurobiological changes that are created by childhood trauma and toxic stress – these are changes in the emotional brain circuits that enable us to respond to crises, fear and threats.  Children’s brains can be hijacked by emotions and deeply fearful responses to perceived threats. This reaction gives them less access to brain areas that support memory, focused attention, organizing information, and building positive relationships. We call these executive functions – and they are essential for learning.   

To read this complete article written by  Christine Mason and Maud Schaafsma go to



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Dana Brown posted:

Congratulations Lee-Anne on your newest book, Self-Compassion for Teens, honored as No. #1 on Amazon's NEW RELEASE! Absolutely fabulous.

Thanks Dana! It was the #1 New Release in 2 categories: Emotional Mental Health AND also in Child Popular Psychology!

Thank you Leslie for sharing this post! With several positive initiatives presently in our nation denoted in the article, I'm curious if you're aware of any additional knowledge on the umbrella project.... "Several of these initiatives are connected to an umbrella project developed by Ashoka Foundation in Alexandria, VA and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation in Baltimore, MD to improve the Wellbeing of Children."

How can we align our comprehensive strategies collectively with policy and systems change locally, regionally, statewide and nationally.  With the staggering statistics reflected in the article, "We know from CDC and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network data on children’s experiences of violence that 65% - 85% of children living in poverty experience significant trauma.", we, as a society, must wrap around our families with hope, healing, and resilience building.


Thank you for posting this blog!

Just wanted to draw your attention to the toxic stress, abuse, and harm students are subjected to everyday in the name of education. "Poisonous Pedagogy" is a term Alice Miller coined to describe the negative practices adults impose on kids in the name of education. Students experience a range of stressors in the name of learning: test anxiety; curricula and standards that are developmentally inappropriate; bullying by staff, administrators, parents, teachers, and coaches, in addition to other students, and more. Teachers are also exposed to abuses that were documented by Karen Horowitz in White Chalk Crime. And, it worsens with the use of criminal justice on school campuses for behavioral discipline and culminates in the School-to-Prison Pipeline, especially for students of color in low income communities. I call this phenomenon Educational Trauma, and you can read more about it here. I've also written about it in Pedagogies of Kindness and Respect: On the lives and education of children (eds. Thomas et al, 2015,) as well as in Self-Compassion for Teens, my latest book that was #1 NEW RELEASE on Amazon 2 months ago.

Your concern for students is noted and appreciated.