WEST CHESTER (October 8) – State Senator Andy Dinniman will hold a screening of the documentary film “Paper Tigers,” which chronicles the positive results of trauma informed education at an alternative high school in Washington state, on Wednesday, October 21 from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. at West Chester University’s Sykes Theatre.

PaperTigersImmediately following the film screening, Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn, chair of the Education Committee of the Pennsylvania NAACP, will lead a panel discussion on best practices to address the impact of trauma in the classroom.

Act 48 credits and continuing education units will be available for teachers and social workers who attend the event. However, the film screening and discussion is free and open to the public for anyone who wants to attend.

“This is a powerful film that everyone who works with young people should see,” said Dinniman, who holds a doctorate in education and serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee. “More and more schools and educators are recognizing that children are not prepared to learn until they are emotionally healthy and that addressing trauma is part in parcel of building a strong and successful educational program.”

“Paper Tigers,” directed by James Redford, son of Robert Redford, follows the true story of Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington and how one principal and his staff changed their approach to address trauma and experienced overwhelmingly positive results in the lives and the academic careers of their students.

Lincoln became the first high school in the nation to integrate trauma-informed and resilience-building practices into its curriculum. Three years later, the school has seen a dramatic improvement in student behavior and success with a 75 percent decrease in fights and a five-fold increase in graduation.

Dinniman, who has been working to address and raise awareness of the impact of trauma on education through the Chester County Coalition for Public Education since 2012, said the issue is gaining traction both statewide and nationally.

guy-781483_1280Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding Commission (BEFC) paved the way for an education system that takes into account students’ emotional health and well-being by including the “poverty concentration” factor in its new funding formula. The commission also recognized “that students in trauma may be more costly to educate and the application of weights to this factor based on reliable data may be merited.”

“Studies show that students in less affluent areas are greatly impacted by trauma and that there are factors, such as domestic violence, homelessness, hunger, and drug addiction, which lead to students coming to school traumatized,” he said. “There is no doubt that trauma has a direct and significant, negative impact on learning. Our schools and our students are not going to succeed until we address it, no matter how many standardized tests we give them.”

In addition, the BEFC’s official recommendations call for the Department of Education “to consider devising protocols and measures to identify students in trauma.”

Dinniman also pointed out that trauma is currently the main issue in a landmark class action lawsuit in California where students are suing the Compton Unified School District for allegedly failing to address their trauma-related problems by providing appropriate services and education.

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