In the last few years, educational professionals, social service providers, and organizations like the ACLU began confronting the consequences of decades of zero tolerance discipline policies that pushed children out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Some innovators recognized that overly harsh discipline policies were not the only challenge; many children carry their family problems and trauma into school with them. When coupled with a negative school climate, this trauma can be exacerbated and make it harder for students to focus, behave appropriately, and learn.

On Friday, May 10th 2013, the ACLU of Delaware will welcome speakers from the Trauma Learning and Policy Initiative of Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Advocates for Children to discuss how they have advanced initiatives to improve student achievement and academic success by focusing on the link between a supportive school environment and reducing student trauma.

The goal of the will be to bring together parents, educators, community leaders, and youth and mental health advocates to discuss the tasks and challenges of ensuring that schools support student success in all areas. We would like participants to leave with greater information and insight about the impact of childhood trauma on learning and what can be done in Delaware to improve school environments.

Through No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and other initiatives, Delaware has sought to improve schools and student achievement with a new curriculum, student testing, and training and evaluation of school personnel. 

However, research increasingly shows that school climate -- a school’s social and disciplinary atmosphere, including peer interactions, students’ sense of safety and security, and disciplinary policies and practices- plays a crucial role in student achievement. Along with other factors, school climate especially impacts at-risk students and low-performing schools.

Historically, Delaware’s school policies and practices have led to the use of overwhelming amounts of exclusionary discipline, which significantly lowers a student’s chances of completing school, especially for minority, low-income, and special education students. The ACLU-DE Stay in School Project aims to do its part by introducing the topics of student trauma and school climate to the conversation about improving student success and educational equality.

For more information about the forum, contact Alexandria Nedd, Stay in School Coordinator, at