Trauma-informed schools provide benefit to students and families as they embrace restorative practices and social-emotional learning. These schools are trained to understand how traumatic stress affects neurological development and learning, and view misbehaviors as skill deficits. As a result, their responses are rooted in compassionate capacity building, rather than exclusionary discipline intended to maintain compliance. Lastly, these schools strive to have the resources needed to meet students’ social-emotional needs, including sufficient access to high-quality mental health providers. In short, these schools are models of institutions where you would want to send your child, regardless of their relationship with adverse childhood experiences.
Sadly, few schools in Memphis are certifiably trauma-informed. Yet, there is a growing local movement to change that. Shelby County Schools, as well as various charters, are working to educate school staff about the effect of ACEs and toxic stress. Some schools are already moving to the next step, using their new understandings to transform how they support students, particularly when it comes to discipline and building social-emotional skills.
The ACE Awareness Foundation (ACEAF) is working to support and strengthen these efforts. Part of that work included partnering with Pyramid Peak Foundation and Stand for Children to bring Michelle Kinder to Memphis on January 8 for “Better Together: Understanding the Relationship Between Trauma & Youth Justice."
Frank Jemison is the Director of Education Outreach at the ACE Awareness Foundation. Frank worked in Memphis schools for seven years and now leads local trainings and outreach efforts for ACEAF. He is a Stand member and Momentum Memphis task force contributor.