Poverty Can Change Kids’ Brain Chemistry, but Educators in Spokane Learned How to Counteract It

As research mounts underscoring how ineffective school suspensions are for correcting student misbehavior, a parallel truth bears repeating: Some kids are not easy to handle.

Often, they do a lot more than curse teachers or talk back, as the new film Paper Tigers shows. In it, James Redford (son of Robert) profiles a high school in Walla Walla that was full of kids who’d been kicked out of other programs. They threw chairs. They did drugs. They appeared unreachable.

But when school leaders began to understand the role of trauma in students’ behavior, things changed. Brain-changing trauma isn’t limited to living in a war-torn country or watching your family killed. It can come from something as common as poverty. Or divorce. And it has powerful, long-lasting effects.

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