Talking about Paper Tigers: the Documentary

Today I had the privilege of viewing the documentary Paper Tigers.

At Lincoln High School are stories similiar to Lakeside’s four schools

I was impressed with the stories of these students and the impact the staff had on their lives. I felt very much at home with the film since so much of what happened there is so similar to the many stories we have at Lakeside’s four schools.

Here is information about the film from the Paper Tigers website:

Paper Tigers is an intimate look into the lives of selected students at Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youth. Set amidst the rural community of Walla Walla, WA, the film intimately examines the inspiring promise of Trauma Informed Communities – a movement that is showing great promise in healing youth struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).

Exposure to chronic and adverse stress (and the altered brain function that results) leaves a child in a fruitless search for comfort and escape from a brain and body that is permanently stuck in flight or fight. That comfort comes in the form of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, sex, food and more.

Every year, millions of unloved and traumatized youth enter adulthood with damaged brains and hearts. They are highly predisposed to die from self-destructive behaviors, and highly likely to continue the cycle of abuse. Even those who do not engage in self destructive behaviors are highly predisposed to get cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and immune disorders.

The impact of unloved and traumatized children on society is profound and widespread. 85% of inmates were traumatized as youth. 27% of hospital visits can be traced to causes linked to childhood trauma. Hurt kids grow up to hurt people. The generational cycles of trauma and abuse are as stubborn as they are tragic.

But there is hope.

There are doctors, researchers, teachers, nurses, social workers and law enforcement officers that are turning the tide against the cycle of trauma and abuse. A movement is rising, one that sees aberrant behavior in children as a symptom rather than a moral failing. This movement asks not what is wrong with our youth, but rather what has happened to them. The paradigm is shifting from punishment and blame to a deeper commitment to understanding and healing the underlying causes of aberrant behavior. With this shifting paradigm comes the promise of great improvements in many of the society’s costly ills: less crime, less illness, less teen pregnancy, abuse, rape, divorce.

Simply put, it is cheaper to heal than to punish. Paper Tigers takes a look at what is possible.

Yes it is possible to heal some of the deep wounds of children who have a high ACEs score or are victims of other types of trauma. Creating environments for these students that are safe, affirming, non-punitive, supportive, attuned to the real issues of life, and yet with the right type of accountability, can help students turn around from a path of destructive life choices.

One of the main points made is that a great deal of recovery can occur when there is a caring adult involved in a student’s life.

Once again, we find this to be so true in the lives of our students.  I believe that creating schools for students who have been trauma-affected (like Lakeside’s schools and this one) can really make a difference in the lives of our students. It can save so much heartache for the students and their families.  I do hope this movement can continue to grow.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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