From aromatherapy to anger management: How schools are addressing the ‘crisis’ of childhood trauma
May 20, 2019
Instead of going outside for recess on a recent Friday, fifth-grader Thomas Stevenson walked down a hallway in Ridgeview Elementary School and entered a dimly lit room. Inside, lavender aromatherapy filled the air, spa-like music played and a projector broadcast clouds onto a screen. Passing by bean bag chairs on the floor and chess sets on tables, Thomas picked up some Legos and began building an elaborate structure. ... “It’s not like the teacher is going to become the mother that the child lost, or whatever happened,” said Susan Cole, director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a joint program of Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Advocates for Children, a children’s rights organization. “But they're going to show them that you can have a good relationship with an adult, that an adult will help you to be successful and you’ll go on to form more caring relationships."
...Educators are just beginning to recognize how emotional trauma can affect brain development, which in turn affects the ability to learn. Trauma, by this measure, is not just a catastrophic event, says Michele Verda, pediatric neuropsychologist at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois. It can be a slow, steady build up of neglect, abuse, exposure to violence, the stress of family poverty...Susan Cole, a Harvard Law School professor and director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, advocates for trauma-sensitive schools. “A deep understanding of trauma and how to create a safe environment is central to learning,” she says.
...Children suffering trauma — such as domestic violence or a drug or alcohol addicted parent — are marred by emotional turmoil. They struggle to learn, get along with others and frequently find themselves in trouble, a path that often leads to jail or even prison. Schools are seeing increasing numbers of children dealing with trauma, which equates to more detentions, suspensions and even expulsions. In effort to change this and give these students an education and a fair shot at life, many schools are scrapping their traditional disciplinary models in favor of those that create a calmer, predictable environment to help these children navigate their hurt so they can learn...Susan Cole, director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative established by the Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School, said her institute has received requests from schools across the world seeking to use trauma sensitive models. “We begin to see, sadly, that this is not uncommon and that it’s a real community problem,” she said.
When Trauma Affects Learning
May 2, 2017
School Resource Officers (SROs) have an immense job. They are not only tasked with maintaining the safety and security of the school and grounds, but often also play the role of mentor. Working within the academic environment provides challenges to law enforcement but also offers an immense opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children, who will one day be the adults making up our communities. An important key to embracing this role effectively is recognizing how trauma affects children and embracing programs that bring trauma-informed care into our schools...“We can overcome the silos of our different fields to provide schools with the support they need to help all children learn,” Susan Cole, Director Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative: Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School Lead author of Helping Traumatized Children Learn explains in the preface.
Special Report: Schools face surge in suicide attempts
January 3, 2017
Bay State educators struggling with a surge of student suicides and attempts are getting help this winter as a panel set up in response to the Sandy Hook massacre spells out how to assist teens suffering from panic attacks, substance abuse, neighborhood violence, eating disorders and self-harm. It’s being called the first such report of its kind nationwide that’s zeroing in on mental health fixes. “No other state in the country is doing this,” said Susan Cole, director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a joint program of Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School. “It puts us on the cutting edge.”
...Like a growing number of schools nationwide, Houston Elementary in Washington, D.C., is using mindfulness and other therapies to help children manage the stress they encounter in their daily lives...“The brain cannot focus when it’s not calm,” said Susan Cole, a Harvard Law School professor and director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, which advocates for “trauma sensitive” schools. “Children have to feel safe enough to learn.”
For the Children Who ‘Fell Through the Cracks’
November 24, 2014
From the statehouse to the schoolhouse, an HLS initiative changes the paradigm for educating young people who have experienced trauma.
Governor Patrick signs Safe and Supportive Schools into law
August 14, 2014
For the past year, Harvard Law students in the Education Law Clinic have travelled back and forth to the Massachusetts State House to lobby state legislators to pass an Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools. On August 13, all that work paid off, when Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Safe and Supportive Schools provisions into law.
The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a nationally recognized collaboration between Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC), recently published the second volume of its landmark report “Helping Traumatized Children Learn” which offers a guide to a process for creating trauma-sensitive schools and a policy agenda to provide the support schools need to achieve that goal.
Susan Cole, HLS Lecturer on Law and director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative Clinic at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center at HLS, was interviewed in the Washington Post on the Supreme Court’s recent special education ruling in Forest Grove School District v. T.A. The Q&A, “The Special Education Ruling,” with Cole and the Post’s Stacey Garfinkle appeared in the July 6, 2009 edition of Washington Post.