Girls coping with trauma are often met with harsh discipline at school

During a recent event at the White House focusing on how schools should be addressing the traumatic experiences of girls, and girls of color in particular, a Latina student talked about the childhood abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather.

“I never really coped with my anger. I thought [the teachers] don’t care about you,” she said.

But then she received help from counselors through a trauma-informedapproach, called PACE, which stands for playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy. This allows the student to feel safer in the classroom and fosters better trust with adults and other children by fostering a more positive teacher-student relationship, and in turn, helps students form bonds with other students. Mindfulness practices are also part of PACE.

“I had a counselor and she told me things similar to my story and that’s when I started opening my eyes. With their actions and everything they’re trying to do to put a smile on your face, you start noticing that it’s true, it’s not just a myth [that teachers care],” she said.

U.S. Department of Education Secretary John King, who shared his own traumatic childhood experiences at the event, said that it’s important for children who have experienced trauma to be able to be children at school. But too often, racially disparate and harsh student discipline push girls of color out of school — and sometimes into the criminal justice system — instead of getting them they help they need to cope with trauma.

Although caring teachers like the ones the Florida student encountered are important, King said it’s important to ensure that these changes are systemic, not individual.

“Ultimately it is about how we create school environments that save kids’ lives. This isn’t about heroic acts of individuals. It can’t be,” King said at last week’s White House event. “We have to create systems for our kids… It’s not so simple as invest in children a sense of hope.”…

Read the full piece on Think Progress.