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A New Movement To Treat Troubled Children As ‘Sad, Not Bad’

In New Orleans, Crocker College Prep Academy is at the vanguard of a collaborative of five schools launched in 2015 by the city’s health department. At each school, educators, experts in psychiatry and development, and mental-health providers work together to improve academic achievement by establishing a place where students can feel a sense of belonging and safety.

The concept behind these so-called “trauma-informed schools” is supported by research showing that traumatized students — those who have been exposed to repeated violence, abuse and deprivation — maintain such high levels of vigilance and anxiety that they cannot flourish at school until they can calm themselves.

In the past, this group of misunderstood students — even those within Crocker’s own charter network, New Orleans College Prep — often faced harsh punishment. Five years ago, Crocker’s sister schools, Cohen College Prep and Sylvanie Williams College Prep, suspended more than half their students, 51 percent, during the school year. (Parallel data wasn’t available for Crocker, which was run by a different charter operator at the time.)