VIDEO: Dr. Sal Terrasi on Brockton’s Commitment to Safe and Supportive Schools

By Dr. Sal Terrasi
Executive Director of Pupil Personnel Services, Brockton Public Schools

In this video from the November 14 release of Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Volume 2, Dr. Sal Terrasi speaks about Brockton Public Schools’ work to create safe and supportive learning environments for all students. Drawing a parallel with the Civil Rights Movement, he views current efforts to make schools trauma sensitive as stemming from the same impetus that drove desegregation: a desire to create the best learning environments for children. Following are Dr. Terrasi’s words:

“It’s with a strong sense of history, that we come together on this day, November 14th, to celebrate the publication of Helping Traumatized Children Learn Volume 2: Creating and Advocating for Trauma-Sensitive Schools. It was on November 14th, 1960 when a six-year-old girl named Ruby Bridges was escorted to school by four badge wearing marshals dispatched from the United States Justice Department. Ruby Bridges was the first African American to attend the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans as a result of court ordered desegregation.

You’re probably all familiar with the Norman Rockwell painting that has chronicled that famous day and it’s come to be recognized as a defining image in the Civil Rights Movement in this country. Today, maybe not in as momentous a way, we’re continuing the work of developing the best school environments for children.

Now, of course, the issue is not so much about access to schools as it is about supportive school environments that meet the needs of complex learners. Brockton’s commitment to Trauma-Sensitive Schools is an important step toward that end. Since 2007, we have been engaged in the work of raising awareness among teachers and administrators regarding the many ways that children are affected by adverse childhood experiences. Many of our schools have participated in training conducted by the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative. The Huntington School, the Brookfield School, the Raymond School, the Angelo School. They were some of our early adopters.

We’ve worked in conjunction with the District Attorney’s Office, in particular with Tim Cruise and Ed Jacobs. We’ve given testimony at the State House in support of legislation that assists schools in developing action plans to support the emotional well-being of children. We’ve established a community wide Trauma Advisory Board and we’ve collaborated with various state agencies such as the Department of Children and Families as well as local counseling agencies. We have, with the assistance of the Brockton Police, developed a Child Witness to Violence Project.

We have had our work written about in the Huffington Post. And just yesterday Brockton was featured in an article in the New York Times. In particular, Elizabeth Barry, our Executive Director for Teaching and Learning at the K – 5 level, and Ryan Powers, Principal right here at the Baker School, were both interviewed.

And we have found a wonderful partner in Lesley University. I’d like to acknowledge the assistance of Joe Cambone, Senior Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation, and Mary Beth Curtis who is the Director for the Center of Special Education, both of them at the Lesley Graduate School. It is with their assistance that we have collaborated with the University in developing graduate level courses that help educators to understand the diverse causes of trauma. Help them to understand how it manifests itself in the classroom setting. And, most importantly, how to intervene, sensitively, and effectively. To date more than 225 of our own Brockton professional staff have successfully completed at least one of these courses.

We have made a good beginning. But it’s important to recognize that it is just that, a beginning. This work must ultimately be woven into the fabric of education. And today, November 14th is indeed a fitting day for us to reflect on and to renew our commitment to the type of supportive environments embodied in the concept of Trauma-Sensitive Schools.”


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