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Trauma-informed pilot program results in increased attendance, decreased suspensions — Commentary

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There’s a movement underway at Beach High School, and it has resulted in increased attendance and decreased suspensions during the first semester of the 2016-2017 academic year.
What’s driving the movement is Beach’s team of compassionate, committed staff and the collaboration of student support programs on campus: Restorative Justice, Safe and Civil, and our recently launched It’s About T.I.M.E. (Trauma-Informed Movement in Education) pilot program, among others.
The Guidance Center launched It’s About T.I.M.E. in partnership with Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) and Beach High School at the beginning of the 2016-2017 academic school year, with future plans to expand the trauma-informed program to additional schools within the district to help children throughout the community who have experienced trauma.
It’s About T.I.M.E. goes hand-in-hand with Restorative Justice practices, brought to Beach by the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ) five years ago, and Safe and Civil initiatives established at Beach over the past several years. Both programs’ focus on supporting students’ personal and academic success through positive behavioral support has laid the foundation for It’s About T.I.M.E.’s training.
It’s About T.I.M.E., which is based on ChildTrauma Academy’s Neurosequential Model in Education (NME), supports and encourages staff in the understanding that many children have endured ongoing, significant life stressors and traumatic experiences, and that trauma can inhibit students’ ability to succeed in the traditional classroom environment. The goal of the program is to support staff in seeing students and their challenging behaviors through a different or “trauma-informed” lens and respond with compassion and love to promote healthy bonds, which are scientifically proven to help students’ brains heal emotionally and develop academically.
Building on the foundation set by Restorative Justice and Safe and Civil, Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, a clinical therapist in The Guidance Center’s School Based program, trained Beach staff in the trauma-informed approach prior to the start of the school year, and has continued on as an onsite collaborator, consultant, model and instructor for staff.
And we’re seeing the trauma-informed approach working. Suspensions at Beach decreased by approximately 74 percent in the first semester of this school year, and attendance has increased by approximately 9 percent, consistently outpacing the school’s monthly attendance goal by 10 percent.
Not only has attendance increased and suspensions decreased, but students have also expressed how supportive they feel the school is this year. At the conclusion of the first semester of this year, Beach students were given a survey. The majority of students surveyed expressed that they feel “the school is a supportive and inviting place” for them. And, 91 percent of all students surveyed report having at least one staff member with whom they have a positive connection. Both are critical components of an environment that helps children who have experienced trauma succeed in the classroom and in their personal lives.
It’s important to remember that each number cited is a child, and each figure trending in a positive direction is a life positively changed. These first-semester outcomes speak volumes to the positive impact the trauma-informed approach can have in the hands of influential community members like school staff.
We’re looking forward to using the pilot program at Beach as a model for empowering more educators with the trauma-informed approach as we expand It’s About T.I.M.E. to another school within LBUSD next year.
We invite you to join the trauma-informed movement and help us reach more children in Long Beach. Join us for a social-hour fundraiser on Wednesday, May 17 at Timeless Pints, located at 3671 Industry Ave in Lakewood, to help us bring trauma-informed toolkits to classrooms in LBUSD and keep the movement going. If you’re interested in attending, contact Nicole Bucaro, marketing and events specialist for The Guidance Center, at [email protected] or call (562) 216-2304 to be added to the list to be among the first to be able to purchase tickets.

Patricia Costales, LCSW, is the CEO of The Guidance Center, a nonprofit child and family mental health organization headquartered in Long Beach.

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Trauma-informed pilot program results in increased attendance, decreased suspensions — Commentary