Post Date: May 19, 2006

A recent report by the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI), a clinical placement for Harvard Law students, was the centerpiece of a daylong, state-wide conference hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Education on Wednesday, May 10. The conference, “Reducing Trauma as a Barrier to Learning,” was attended by more than 250 teachers, school administrators, superintendents and mental health professionals that work in schools.

The TLPI report, Helping Traumatized Children Learn, highlights the impact that trauma from exposure to violence—particularly family violence—has on children’s ability to focus, behave appropriately and learn in schools. The report advocates for school environments that are safe and supportive so that children can overcome traumatic life experiences they may have endured. It also contains a “Flexible Framework” of approaches that schools can use to create “trauma-sensitive” environments.

“We are thrilled that the Department of Education chose to structure its conference around our report,” said TLPI director Susan Cole, a clinical instructor at the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center. “TLPI’s mission is to ensure that all children traumatized by exposure to violence succeed in school. To see educators from across the state engaged in deep discussion about how to take the ideas contained in our report and go back and apply them in their schools was tremendously exciting.”

TLPI is a partnership between the law school’s Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center and Massachusetts Advocates for Children, a non-profit children’s rights organization in Boston. Clinical students at TLPI represent traumatized children and their families in special education proceedings in Boston-area schools. Student casework formed the basis for the conclusions and recommendations contained in Helping Traumatized Children Learn.

TLPI students also engage in policy work at the Massachusetts state legislature and have been successful at advocating for the funding of grants that have allowed 20 Massachusetts school districts to create trauma-sensitive learning environments.

For more information about the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative or to find out how to register for the clinic, please contact Susan Cole or Michael Gregory at 617-390-2550.