Below is an excerpt from The Charlotte Observer’s article In North Carolina we talk about race and poverty in education. But what about trauma?

What if a child who disrupts class and tunes out teachers is traumatized, rather than defiant?

“Too often, teachers and school leaders respond to misbehavior by asking, ‘What’s wrong with you?,’ when instead they should be asking, ‘What happened to you?,’ ” says a new report from the Public School Forum of North Carolina.

The Raleigh-based Forum is a nonpartisan research and advocacy group created by political, education and business leaders from around the state. “Expanding Educational Opportunity in North Carolina” is the result of a yearlong study of the biggest barriers to quality education for all students.

Problems like poverty and racism, highlighted in the report, are well known and thoroughly discussed, even if solutions remain elusive. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is working on a student assignment plan that promotes socioeconomic diversity, a strategy endorsed by the forum report. Many employees have done training to recognize and counteract racial biases, and the school board is reviewing racial disparities in suspension for young children.

Researchers have long been familiar with the lasting effects of exposure to violence, neglect and family turmoil on children. Now people who are serious about public policy are taking an increased interest in how childhood trauma shapes education and public safety.

“You can’t legislate the home. You can’t control how kids come to you. You do have a responsibility to respond to them in the condition they come,” said James Ford, a Charlotte-based Public School Forum staffer. He’s working with CMS to create pilot elementary schools where everyone is trained to support traumatized children.


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