Trauma-Informed Schools: Sanctuaries for Resilience amidst Chronic Toxicity

By John Schlitt, President, School-Based Health Alliance

SBHA_20yr_Logo_LargeA fledgling movement is growing in communities across the country to tackle the negative effects of unremitting stress and trauma before they take hold in children and adolescents. And schools are ground zero for bold experimentation.

Galvanized by compelling—and alarming—data from the now twenty-year long adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) study, school and local leaders are adopting trauma-informed practices to mitigate the costly and long-term consequences of chronic exposure to these experiences on students’ academic success and wellbeing.

During the opening plenary of the 2015 National School-Based Health Care Convention, two leading voices in this movement—Jane Ellen Stevens, a journalist who began reporting about the ACEs study and related research in 2005, and Leisa Irwin, an education practitioner—will share a brief history of the ACEs study and its findings, and describe how U.S. schools and their partners are re-shaping education to combat traumatic injury.

Jane Ellen Stevens is the founder and editor of, a news site for the general public, and its accompanying community of practice social network, The sites focus on research on ACEs and practices based on that research. Stevens will provide a contextual framework and background information about the ACEs study gleaned from her years of research and reporting on the subject.

Leisa Irwin is the executive director of the Paladin School in Blaine, Minnesota. Her program exemplifies one school’s efforts to integrate trauma-sensitive practices to get to the root causes of dysfunction in the classroom, build resilience and self-determination in students, and minimize the social disorder in their lives. The transformational results will amaze and inspire.

The opening plenary is an introduction to the nearly 14 hours of clinical content the School-Based Health Alliance has organized for our 2015 convention. Along with our partners at the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health, we’ve developed the strongest clinical program in the history of our convention to help practitioners build competency on critical issues affecting the health and wellbeing of vulnerable school-aged youth today.


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