School board discusses adverse childhood events

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A local professional discussed ways to help children overcome adverse childhood experiences Monday night at the Albert Lea School Board study session.

Freeborn County Family Services Collaborative Facilitator Lana Howe presented from previous surveys the effects adverse childhood experiences — such as physical, emotional and sexual abuse, divorce, parent incarceration and substance abuse — can have on children, noting these factors put them at an increased risk of depression, anxiety, self-harm and early death.

She suggested district officials incorporate a safe, welcoming atmosphere at school, such as making sure hallways are bright and ensuring staff and teachers are trained on trauma and are caring toward students.

Email newsletter signup

“It’s little things like that that make a big difference,” she said, noting she wears a bracelet that reminds her that people’s destinies are not formed by what has happened to them but what they choose to become.

Lana Howe

Lana Howe

She said a shift in focus is needed to help children overcome adverse childhood experiences by asking them what they have gone through, not what is wrong with them.

She said students who are educationally engaged and have a positive student-teacher relationship are less likely to end their lives, noting she thinks substance abuse among students is often a way students deal with adverse childhood experiences. She spoke of the need to give students a healthier way of dealing with adverse childhood events.

She said Freeborn County is addressing the issue through a number of facets, such as through domestic violence prevention, child care, support for low-income families and other approaches.

Howe said she was happy to be at the meeting and share more information about adverse childhood experiences, particularly the information she has gathered with new people.

Chairman Mark Ciota said Howe did a good job presenting, noting he thinks the issue is important to address.

He mentioned a student who graduated from Albert Lea Area Learning Center last week as an example that a single word of encouragement can change the life of a child. He noted awareness is needed throughout the community.

He said adverse childhood experiences can cause children to be unable to learn effectively, noting he thinks it is a huge problem in Albert Lea.

“This is a community-wide issue, and the school district needs to play its part in any solutions that we come up with,” Ciota said. “We’re certainly happy to participate, and I think the more awareness we get out to the community as a whole, the much better we will be at this kind of problem solving.”

Board member Julie Johnson said each staff member needs to be trained to help students, and she thinks everyone in the district plays a role in building relationships.

“This is so important,” Johnson said.

Board member Jill Marin said education is key to breaking multi-generation cycles. She said if district employees learn more about adverse childhood experiences, they will have the strength to move ahead and make a huge difference for children so they can be nurtured in a way that they might not be at home.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

email author More by Sam