Cleveland school district trains teachers on how to deal with the trauma students face

CLEVELAND - When 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by Cleveland police in March 2014, his former classmates went to school.

When 3-year-old Major Howard was caught in the crossfire of street shooting and killed, his former friends and classmates, had to go to school.

It’s something most students living in or around the Cleveland Metropolitan School district can’t avoid — hearing or at least seeing trauma.

“In their homes, and in their community and even walking to and from school,” said Rosemary Creeden, Associate Director of Trauma Services at the non-profit Frontline.

Earlier this year, the CDC reported one in five high school students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District tried to take their own life in 2015.

RELATED: Cleveland school district has highest suicide rates of any school district in the U.S.

Creeden says this just underscores the level of trauma they're dealing with, in and outside the home.

So CMSD wants their students to overcome the odds and they’re working with teachers first. Teachers like Mr. Michael Phillips.

“For me, I just feel like I never dealt with that," he said. "They have a different experience than I’ve got and I feel like I’m learning from them. But at the same time, they come in sometimes scared, or nervous."

Teaching math to students grades 6th through 8th at Alfred Benesch Elementary School for the past three years, he said on a daily basis he hears his students talk about their fears and problems.

He listens but wishes there was more he could do.

That’s why CMSD has started trauma training for him and other teachers. The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood brought the idea of trauma training to CMSD.

Frontline, a mental health crisis non-profit, walks teachers through the warning signs, bringing awareness to the impact of trauma on kids.

Creeden said now that research reveals more about how traumatic events affect students ability to focus, they can help teachers see, spot, and deal with these tough situations before they get worse.

“Behaviors that they might see in the classroom, may look like misbehavior, but really it’s a reaction to the trauma’s that they’re seeing in their homes and in their community,” she said.

While students of all ages face different degrees of mental and emotional trauma, no matter the area they grow up in, Creeden said children in lower socioeconomic status areas typically experience higher levels of trauma-induced stress.

This is the very first time Cleveland schools have done this particular type of training for teachers.
Alfred Benesch Elementary is the second school that has gone through the training so far this year.

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