Tag Archives: Jim Sporleder

Healing Student Trauma: Film Debut, Orange County

paper-tigers-kelsey-movie-creditsSave the date Oct. 14 in Orange County, CA!  It’s the OC’s first screening of James Redford’s “Paper Tigers,” a film on how Lincoln Alternative High heals traumatized students with new relationships.  Such “Trauma-Informed Care” has begun in schools, medical settings, judiciary and social services nationally, with top results. It can help any organization.

Watch the two-minute trailer now: PaperTigersMovie.com

From rough areas, Lincoln High’s students were headed for the “School to Prison Pipeline.”  Then Principal Jim Sporleder took this Walla Walla WA school run by gangs, with 789 suspensions and 50 expulsions a year, and turned it around.  Suspensions fell 85-90%, expulsions fell 30-50%, and attendance, GPAs, and state exam scores rose. Graduation rates rose five-fold. Students got into college with $30K in scholarships. It was so dramatic that Robert Redford’s son James Redford made this film.

On Sept. 19, Mr.  Sporleder and my other friends at ACEsConnection spoke on this work at the White House in Washington. The White House Fact Sheet features ACEsConnection and our 10,000-person organization in its third bullet under “Online Community Support for Educators.”

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“Paper Tigers” Film Screening, Friday, October 14, 7 pm
Center For Spiritual Living, 1201 Puerta Del Sol, San Clemente CA 92673
– A documentary by James Redford, Director –

– Hundreds of screenings already organized nationally –
Admission free. To ensure seats, click “Register” button here.
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How did Principal Sporleder do it?   “Let’s stop asking kids ‘What’s wrong with you?’   Sporleder told his staff — and start asking ‘What happened to you?’  Then, let’s be quiet and listen with compassion.”

If a student used the “F” bomb, instead of detention they saw the principal. “What bad stuff happened that you’re so upset?” Jim would ask. “My Dad left for Iraq, again!” or “Mom’s drunk so no breakfast,” they’d say. They’d pour out their hearts until Jim reached them emotionally and they felt heard. As they could feel and verbalize emotions, they acted out less.

Leveraging the ACE Study

How did Jim Sporleder learn to do all this?  It began when he found out about the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.  The ACE Study revealed that some 50% of Americans suffer childhood trauma, and that it can flood students’ brains with toxic stress to where they can’t learn.

He also found a wealth of resources on ACEsConnection.com, the social network site for the ACE Study just cited by the White House this week.

Then Jim, the school staff and the students all studied the ACE Study together. Everyone saw that the students weren’t freaks, but instead their behavior was their bodies’ natural reaction to horrible experiences over years.  Student self-respect grew.  As Robin Williams told Matt Damon, “It’s not your fault:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYa6gbDcx18

The ACE Study and Trauma-Informed Care show that one caring, dependable adult, a teacher or other mentor, can give a kid the relationship they need to heal. Once adults “got them,” the students turned around.

–ACE Study Video by Dr. Vincent Felitti, MD, co-study director: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQwJCWPG478
–Full story on Lincoln High:  https://acestoohigh.com/2012/04/23/lincoln-high-school-in-walla-walla-wa-tries-new-approach-to-school-discipline-expulsions-drop-85
–Trauma-Informed Care  http://www.samhsa.gov/nctic/trauma-interventions

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Kathy’s blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.
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Can School Heal Kids?

Can School Heal Children in Pain? – Guest Blog by “Paper Tigers” Director James Redford, original date June 3 (photo courtesy of Mr. Redford).

aredfordAfter learning about the overwhelming effects of childhood trauma, I decided to make a film about a school that’s adopted a “trauma-informed” lens.

Documentaries are no walk in the park. They take a lot of time and money; they have a way of making a mockery out of your narrative plans…

Why bother? It’s a good question. For me, I have one simple bar that all my films must clear: an “oh my God!” moment. If a story does not elicit that reaction from deep within my bones, I don’t do it. I count on that sense of awe, concern, wonder, and alarm to carry me through the long haul of making the film…

After three years of hard work and uphill battles, my latest documentary film, Paper Tigers, premiered last week [May 28] at the Seattle International Film Festival. And yet it seems like yesterday that I first encountered the explosive research that linked poor health to childhood trauma.

I didn’t know that adverse childhood experiences — like assault, emotional abuse, observing domestic violence — could fundamentally alter a child’s body and brain. These kids are at risk for every single major disease, including (but not limited to) cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. That risk doesn’t include the increased likelihood of “self-soothing behaviors” like smoking, drinking, eating too much food, doing too many drugs, having too much sex.

Put that all together and you have the underpinnings for some of the greatest societal challenges we face. It quickly became clear that social support systems require a deeper understanding of adverse childhood experiences….

The good news is that there are schools, clinics, courts, and communities that are starting to adopt a “trauma-informed” lens.

Click to Read More…

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Kathy’s blogs and Guest Blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

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‘Paper Tigers’ Film: ACE Trauma Can Be Healed

“Resilience practices overcome students’ ACEs in trauma-informed high school, say the data” — Guest Blog by Jane Stevens, Founder of ACEsConnection.com

Paper Tigers Cast Crew Seattle Premier 5-28-15Three years ago, the story about how Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tried a new approach to school discipline and saw suspensions drop 85% struck a nerve. It went viral – twice — with more than 700,000 page views. Paper Tigers, a documentary that filmmaker James Redford did about the school, premiered last Thursday night [May 28] to a sold-out crowd at the Seattle International Film Festival. Hundreds of communities around the country are clamoring for screenings. [Cast and crew of Paper Tigers after Seattle screening; photo by Jane Stevens]

After four years of implementing the new approach, Lincoln’s results were even more astounding: suspensions dropped 90%, there were no expulsions, and kids grades, test scores and graduation rates surged.

But many educators aren’t convinced. They ask: Can the teachers and staff at Lincoln explain what they did differently? Did it really help the kids who had the most problems – the most adverse experiences? Or is what happened at Lincoln just a fluke? Can it be replicated in other schools?

Last year, Dr. Dario Longhi, a sociology researcher with long experience in measuring the effects of resilience-building practices in communities, set about answering those questions.

The results? Yes. Yes. No. And yes.

In 2010, Jim Sporleder, then-principal of Lincoln High, learned about the CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study and the neurobiology of toxic stress at a workshop in Spokane, WA. The ACE Study showed a link between 10 types of childhood trauma and the adult onset of chronic disease, mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence…

Here’s what Sporleder learned:

Severe and chronic trauma (such as living with an alcoholic parent, or watching in terror as your mom gets beat up) causes toxic stress in kids. Toxic stress damages kid’s brains. When trauma launches kids into flight, fight or fright mode, they cannot learn. It is physiologically impossible.

They can also act out (fight) or withdraw (flight or fright) in school; they often have trouble trusting adults or getting along with their peers. They start coping with anxiety, depression, anger and frustration by drinking or doing other drugs, having dangerous sex, over-eating, engaging in violence or thrill sports, and even over-achieving.

Sporleder said he realized that he’d been doing “everything wrong” in disciplining kids, and decided to turn Lincoln High into a trauma-informed school.

With the help of Natalie Turner, assistant director of the Washington State University Area Health Education Center in Spokane, WA, Sporleder and his staff implemented three basic changes that essentially shifted their approach to student behavior from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

Click to Read More…

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Kathy’s blogs and Guest Blogs explore the journey of recovery from childhood trauma by learning about Adult Attachment Disorder in teens and adults, Adult Attachment Theory, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.

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