Nashville schools asked to dedicate $432,000 for childhood trauma practices, reducing disciplinary issues
A state grant that funds Nashville public schools’ trauma-informed practices will end this year, threatening to stall work that has shown to reduce the need for discipline in the classroom.
Trauma-informed schools work to focus on the reducing the impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences, which can hurt brain development of children and cause behavioral issues.
With the grant ending, a group advocating for the practices in schools is asking Metro Nashville Public Schools to put local funds into the initiative — and increase the scope of the work overall.
ACE (All Children Excel) Nashville is asking Nashville public schools officials dedicate $432,000 toward the programs.
“We are grateful for the support by the district of trauma-informed schools, but we would love for the district to have some skin in the game and integrate (money) into their own budget,” said Kristen Rector, the president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse Tennessee.
The district uses a $200,000 grant provided by Building Strong Brains Tennessee to fund trauma-informed practices in 10 schools. That is slated to end this year. The money goes toward a district and school coordinator.
ACE Nashville is asking the district to fund those two positions but also for increased funding to create four positions to help schools in the different areas of Nashville.
Trauma-informed practices are meant to help students feel safe and connected, which in turn increases their overall focus in the classroom. Classroom teachers, coaches and principals are on the front line of helping students through those issues, Rector said.
The increased support for students has helped almost every school see a reduction in office discipline referrals, helping keep kids in the classroom.
“It’s an often invisible issue,” said Kinika Young, Tennessee Justice Center children’s health director. “Teachers may have a problem child in a classroom but not really understand what is driving that behavior.
Young said nearly half of all U.S. children have experienced an adverse childhood experience, a quarter have experienced three or more and six percent have experienced more than four. Four or more is usually a tipping point, Young said.
“We think it is important to institute and provide that buffer for toxic stress and create safe and nurturing spaces,” Young said. “The impact is not restricted to those that are experiencing the stress. The other kids are experiencing the teacher struggle and trying to regulate their own behavior.”
Mary Crnobori, Nashville schools trauma-informed schools coordinator, said the work has seen strong results in reducing discipline cases overall at schools.
She said at Fall Hamilton Elementary School, which is the first school to take on the practices, has seen the most promising results, with a 97-percent reduction in discipline referrals.
Syrai Alexander finishes a writing assignment at her desk at Fall Hamilton Elementary Thursday Sept. 13, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Larry McCormack / tennessean)
“This work isn’t about just individual students who know trauma, it is in the interest of all students,” she said.
Nashville schools board Vice Chair Christiane Buggs said she believes funding the positions to continue trauma-informed schools is worth consideration, although noted that the district has many areas of need.
“It’s something that will give us exponential dividends in the end,” she said.
Reducing student discipline
Metro Nashville Public Schools uses a $200,000 Building Strong Brains grant to fund a trauma-informed coordinator and a school coordinator. The grant ends after this school year.
The 10 schools, along with their overall decrease in office discipline referrals, are:
- Fall-Hamilton Elementary — 97 percent reduction in year one and a 53 percent reduction in year two over the previous year.
- Eakin Elementary — 73 percent reduction.
- Waverly Belmont Elementary — 29 percent reduction.
- Napier Elementary — 15 percent reduction.
- Hermitage Elementary — 60 percent reduction.
- Inglewood Elementary — One percent reduction.
- Tulip Grove Elementary — 52 percent reduction.
- Meigs Magnet Middle Prep — 37 percent reduction.
Source: ACE Nashville[Read more at The Tennessean]