Trauma-Informed Pilot Program Boosts Attendance at Beach High School
2017-04-07 · By Editor
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 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 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 the laid the foundation for It’s About T.I.M.E.’s training for staff on the neuroscience of trauma and its impact on the lives of students.
Building on that groundwork, 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 that promotes healthy bonds, which are scientifically proven to help students’ brains heal and develop academically.
Prior to the start of the school year, Nathan Swaringen, LCSW, clinical therapist in The Guidance Center’s School Based program, trained Beach staff in the trauma-informed approach and has continued on as an onsite collaborator, consultant, model and instructor for staff.
“I am impressed daily by Beach staff. They care so much about every student and are committed to supporting them any way they can,” said Swaringen. “Beach staff has taken their new understanding of the neuroscience of trauma and combined it with an eagerness to truly view students’ challenging behaviors and attitudes through a lens of compassion and unconditional love to create relationships that are changing lives.”
At the conclusion of the first semester of 2016-2017 academic 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 About T.I.M.E. program has been a great addition to our school support systems,” said Troy Bennett, principal of Beach High School. “I’ve seen Nathan’s direct positive impact on both individuals and groups of students as well as staff due to his interactions with them. Through It’s About T.I.M.E., Nathan has helped the staff understand the science of trauma, explaining the ‘why’ behind the many successful student support programs we have here at Beach.”
In addition to It’s About T.I.M.E., Restorative Justice and Safe and Civil, other student support programs at Beach include Long Beach BLAST, Scale High mentors and the Male Academy.
Not only have suspensions at Beach decreased by approximately 74 percent in the first semester of the 2016-2017 academic year, but attendance has also increased by approximately 9 percent, consistently outpacing the school’s monthly attendance goal by 10 percent. Overall, average monthly attendance for the semester was 86 percent.
“Each number cited is a child, and each figure trending in a positive direction is a life positively changed,” said Patricia Costales, LCSW, CEO of The Guidance Center. “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.”
The Guidance Center is a major community mental health provider offering comprehensive treatment to disadvantaged children and their families. Through The Guidance Center’s School Based Program, therapists, like Swaringen, work onsite at more than 20 schools within LBUSD, 17 schools within Paramount Unified School District and seven schools within Lynwood Unified School District.