The Status Quo In Our Schools Isn’t Working

A lot of chatter the past wk when I posted that headline about the surgeon general in Cali who wants to screen kids for prior trauma – she’s a big champion of understanding how “ACE” – adverse childhood experiences – impact us.


Many/most (based on your comments at least) seem in favor of her general direction. And at the same time, a # of you brought up some tremendously valid points that would lead us to believe formal screening would be difficult. Questions like: Who does the screening? How are the screeners trained? Is this exclusively a government program? What stays on a student’s permanent record? We change so much as we get older, is it fair for it to be on someone’s record at all – especially events they didn’t choose to happen to them? Does this type of scrutiny prevent our kids from getting certain types jobs bc of what they’ve revealed at a young age & is on their records?


I hear all of those concerns – loudly. And I’d be very curious to sit in a room w the surgeon general & hear the answers to those & other questions many of us have. But (& it’s a big but ) we have to ask ourselves if we don’t do something LIKE this, what are the consequences as well? Yes there are consequences to new actions – but there are also consequences to inactions.


I grew up in the generation when K-12 schools were funding MADD & DARE programs, as Nancy Reagan declared a war on drugs. While I believe all those programs had great intentions…we put the cart before the horse. We learned about the substances & vices themselves, before learning about the WHY & the WHAT makes us turn to them.


The result has been a generation of adults who have heavy trauma they haven’t dealt w (bc many don’t even know that’s what ails them), turn to substances or other addictions for relief (bc we weren’t taught healthier ways to escape pain), & as a result we are losing: many man hours from work, much productivity, lots of joy, & even, tragically, a large # of lives.


I hear all the fears above, but given the latest paragraph – can we afford NOT to do something trauma-related? Educate our kids more about MH (check, yes we should do that)…but so few states mandate it, & the ones that do, often don’t specifically talk about trauma – but instead more about disorder education.


Hire more school counselors (check again – you have some politicians who are running on this as a campaign promise – on the state, local & federal levels), but why hire more counselors if our kids & their parents don’t know WHY they’d be using the counselors/there’s been no culture change vehicle in the school or district to educate what these extra resources do for them.


Serendipitous things have been happening to me this entire path the last two years & so as I was writing this, & walking through the airport, I saw an advertisement on the wall and it showed a police officer & pointed out their gun, stick, radio, etc., & said, essentially “this professional can help us when we’re in trouble.” But next to him there was a civilian, & the sign pointed to their eyes, mouth, phone, etc., & it said essentially “this everyday person can help us when we’re in trouble.” It’s essentially an campaign to show how an army of ppl helping, when we are trained what to look for & what to do, is better than the help of the professionals, alone.


I think that’s a great lesson here w trauma. Will every citizen above be great at helping? No. But likewise neither will every officer. Isn’t this the same when it comes to teachers, parents, para support professionals, etc?


The more we TEACH our kids about the SOURCE of what causes problems in their lives now & later on…& the more we teach those same things to our teachers & parents in our school communities – the more we give them tools to 1) change the culture, & 2) know how to START a conversation about our life challenges, the better off we will be.


Maybe we don’t formally screen every single child nor put things on their records. But can we afford to just watch misunderstandings in behavior, teachers & students not getting along, assuming kids are just doing things to “act up,” & essentially follow the same model that hasn’t work for decades, now? We have to be ok that – no, not everyone will be great at it…but a community of informed folks all w the same baseline understanding about trauma and what to look out for and ask about, is better for our kids than one where behavior is misunderstood & “treated” with punishment that doesn’t better the situation & leaves us w adults who are carrying around baggage they don’t know how to handle.

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