May 5, 2017

Educators for Excellence-Boston Releases Policy Paper on Addressing Student Trauma in Schools

Teacher-written policy paper was launched at an event advocating for trauma-informed schools

May 5, 2017 (Boston) — Educators for Excellence-Boston (E4E-Boston) released a teacher-written policy paper, “Schools that Heal,” which includes a set of recommendations for how schools in Boston and Massachusetts can create safe and welcoming learning environments for students who have experienced trauma. The paper was released last night at an event at the Regal Fenway theater, where E4E-Boston members joined At-Large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and the Center for Social Innovation in screening the documentary Paper Tigers, which follows one school’s success in supporting students who have experienced trauma.

In Boston, teachers have voiced concerns that a lack of awareness, training and resources to help students cope with traumatic experiences is harming their ability to learn and succeed in school. With the recent spike in deportations and hate crimes across the country, many students are experiencing anxiety over the safety of their families. A survey by Children’s Hospital found that one in five Boston students have had more than two traumatic experiences.

“I have been working in urban classrooms for thirteen years and seen that trauma has been a constant barrier to students’ ability to learn. We need to have a broader conversation and shine a light on trauma; it is one of the biggest threats to student achievement," said E4E-Boston member Nina Leuzzi, kindergarten teacher at Bridge Boston Academy in Dorchester, who was an author of “Schools that Heal.”

“Schools that Heal” is the product of teacher-led research on ways to better address the needs of our students. Their school-, district-, and state-level recommendations focus on deepening teachers’ ability to teach trauma-impacted students, cultivating a trauma-informed school community and updating the funding formula to reinforce schools with the resources to educate vulnerable students.

“In education we continue to talk about issues of mental health and wellness. Now is the time for us to move beyond talking and take action. We have to show our students and our most vulnerable populations that we are not going to abandon them. Now is the time to look at broader social and emotional issues that impact student learning and work through those with students so they can achieve,” said E4E-Boston member Marina Gopie, ninth-grade English Language Arts teacher at Another Course to College in Hyde Park.

“Oftentimes, a child’s fear and anxiety about issues at home are hidden wounds that deepen when not properly attended to, affecting his or her development. That’s why our teachers believe that addressing trauma in our city’s classrooms is so critical to ensuring that their students feel comfortable and supported in school,” said Sarah Zuckerman, E4E-Boston Executive Director. “I am so proud of the teachers who authored our recommendations, as well as all the educators who work every day to ensure they create an open and encouraging environment. This paper is a clear example, not only of their dedication, but also how, when teachers are empowered to improve their school communities, they can effect real and meaningful change.”

The full policy paper and all recommendations can be found at e4e.org/schoolsthatheal.

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