Read the full story here: Violence is Traumatic for Teachers, Too
You may have caught the recent news about street violence near New Highland Academy. On January 10th, teachers and children were preparing to leave on their regular visit to the nearby 81st Avenue Public Library branch when gunfire broke out and about sixty shots were fired. After this traumatic incident, visits to the library ended completely because it was considered too dangerous. The Oakland Tribune's Tammerlin Drummond wrote a column about the incident and the police-escorted "peace march" to the library a couple of weeks ago that the teachers and the Lincoln Child Center helped organize to create some closure for the second- and third-graders. The march was widely covered and news reports focused on violence the children experience daily both in and near school and at home. Many touched on the trauma counseling the students received and teachers spoke of the great need to support the children. But something seemed missing to me.
Who is helping the teachers and school site staff with their own trauma?
I tracked down Susan Andrien, MFT, who is a Program Manager at the Lincoln Child Center. She told me that her organization has both full-time and part-time staff working on-site at both New Highland Academy and RISE. Both school communities experience high levels of violence including while at school. Last year there were nineteen lockdowns at RISE and as one New Highland Academy teacher mentions in Drummond's column, the school actually has color codes that indicate the severity of the frequent lockdowns. One teacher shared how the staff was "profoundly impacted" by their situation. The need for student mental health services in these schools is well beyond the available capacity. And for teachers, there is even less support.
"They're holding so much," Ms. Andrien says of the teachers. "They're doing the best they can to manage it and many of them are traumatized themselves, from what they see or hear from the students and from experiencing the violence themselves. They're doing a great job but they need more support."
Ms. Andrien discussed the very real consequences of the trauma for adults, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And a quick internet search confirmed there are many other effects: greater risk for depression, substance abuse, general anxiety, and stress that gets in the way of healthy living. I wonder how many teachers and site staff are affected to the point that work and home life are impacted. My heart goes out to these folks, people who have taken on the difficult job of teaching plus the added challenge of navigating dangerous workplace environments to do their jobs.
The good news is that there is some recognition that the adults need mental health support too. Ms. Andrien told me that in addition to the work Lincoln Child Center is doing to provide some coaching and support to teachers and principals, the Oakland Unified School District is looking at a mental health support model that grew out of 9/11 and the lessons learned from treating the mental health needs of responders in New York City. I'm going to look into this and hope I have something to report on in the near future.
The bad news is that it sounds like any substantial plan to provide support for school staff who experience violence is still only in the planning stages. In the meantime, we have a lot of teachers and other site staff out there who continue to be exposed to violence every day and who may not be getting the support they need to cope with the issue. As one teacher confessed, "I worry that the District will lose many great educators if their fears aren't addressed."
Of course, violence and its related trauma are not limited to these two schools. Are you a teacher or staff member facing this problem at New Highland Academy, RISE or another site? How does the violence affect you and your colleagues? Are you getting the support you need and, if not, what do you think would help?
Can Instilling Racial Pride in Black Teens Lead to Better Educational Outcomes?
PITTSBURGH—African American adolescents tend to have more success in school if their parents instill in them a sense of racial pride, reducing their vulnerability to the effects of racial discrimination from teachers and peers.
This is the conclusion of a University of Pittsburgh study published this fall in the journal Child Development. Titled “Parental Racial Socialization as a Moderator of the Effects of Racial Discrimination on Educational Success Among African American Adolescents,” the research article shows that when African American parents use racial socialization—talking to their children or engaging in activities that promote feelings of racial knowledge, pride, and connection—it offsets racial discrimination’s potentially negative impact on students’ academic development.
Preparing the adolescents for possible bias was also a protective factor, though a combination of this preparation and racial socialization was found to be ideal in moderating the possible damaging effects of racial discrimination by teachers or fellow students. The Pitt study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
“Our findings challenge the notion that ‘race blindness’ is a universally ideal parenting approach, especially since previous research has shown that racially conscious parenting strategies at either extreme—either ‘race blindness’ or promoting mistrust of other races—are associated with negative outcomes for African American youth,” said lead author Ming-Te Wang, Pitt assistant professor of psychology in education, who coauthored the study with Harvard’s James P. Huguley.
“When African American parents instill a proud, informed, and sober perspective of race in their sons and daughters, these children are more likely to experience increased academic success,” said Wang.
Although previous studies have shown that parental racial socialization is beneficial to the mental health of African American youth, few researchers have looked at how daily experiences with racial discrimination in a school context are related to the child’s educational prospects.
Scholarly research has shown that African American students, males in particular, are at risk for being unfairly disciplined, being discouraged from taking advanced classes, or receiving lower grades than they deserved, all because of their race. Other studies point to negative peer treatment because of race—getting into fights, being bullied, or not being selected for teams or activities.
Wang and Huguley explored how racial discrimination relates to the students’ educational outcomes, specifically grade-point averages, educational aspirations, the sense of belonging to a school, and cognitive engagement, which is the initiative a student takes in his or her own learning. And they set out to determine how the outcomes are affected by parental racial socialization.
Using a combination of questionnaires and face-to-face interviews of both students and parents, the study examines the home and school racial experiences of 630 African American high school students in a diverse but mostly Black urban area on the East Coast of the United States.
Unlike other studies that focus on low-income families, this project involved participants who came from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. The median household income range was $46,000-$50,000, and 40 percent of the parents or guardians had a college degree.
Overall, the study found racial pride to be the most powerful factor in protecting children from the sting of discriminatory behavior. It directly and positively related to three out of four academic outcomes—grade-point averages, educational aspirations, and cognitive engagement—and was directly related to resilience in the face of discrimination. Preparation for bias was directly related to only one outcome—the sense of belonging to a school.
“Our study provides empirical evidence that the longstanding practice in the African American community of cultivating racial pride and preparing children to face racial bias in society should be considered among appropriate and beneficial practices in parenting Black children,” said Wang, who plans to conduct the same kind of research with Latino and Asian American teenagers.
The San Francisco Chronicle talks about truancy and Lincoln Child Center!