The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative’s (TLPI) mission is to ensure that children traumatized by exposure to family violence and other adverse childhood experiences succeed in school. To accomplish this mission, TLPI engages in a host of advocacy strategies including: legislative advocacy, administrative advocacy, coalition building, outreach and education, research and report writing, and limited individual case representation in special education where a child’s traumatic experiences are interfacing with his or her disabilities.
This cutting-edge and vital contributor to education reform in the state had its roots in the expulsion crisis in the mid-1990’s. MAC noticed in calls from parents a pattern of violence in the lives of many of the children who had been expelled or suspended from school. Working together with parents and experts across the disciplines of education, psychology, law, and neurobiology, MAC/CLSP organized the Task Force on Children Affected by Domestic Violence, which developed five working papers on the impact of domestic violence on education, family law and other matters. These papers laid the foundation for later advocacy and led to the development of TLPI.
In 2000, MAC joined in partnership with Lesley University’s Center on Special Education to hold the first ever conference on the impact of trauma on learning. From that point the work on trauma and learning gained momentum as MAC worked with an interdisciplinary group of psychologists, educators, and attorneys to draft what would later be published as Helping Traumatized Children Learn (HTCL).
In 2004, MAC and Harvard Law School jointly recognized the importance of this work and entered into a formal partnership called the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI). In addition to advocacy at the state and national levels, TLPI teaches Harvard’s law students MAC’s signature multi-strategic approach to systemic change, harnessing their talents to represent individual families and participate in this powerful policy agenda.
- Advocating for laws, regulations, policies, and funding streams to enable schools to create trauma-sensitive environments (including those related to school reform, anti-bullying, dropout prevention, and collaboration between schools and mental health);
- Improving trauma sensitive approaches to the needs of individual children at school in both regular and special education;
- Engaging in a public education campaign to educate policymakers, educators, administrators, health and mental health providers and parents on the impact of trauma on learning and the need for schoolwide approaches to address the need; and
- Working with researchers to foster a clearer understanding of evidenced–based approaches that schools can use to ensure the success of traumatized children.
This project has grown to become an important force in Massachusetts education reform efforts. Through a combination of printed copies and internet downloads, it has disseminated more than 49,000 copies of its ground-breaking publication. It has trained over 10,000 educators, policymakers, parents and others on the impact of trauma on learning. TLPI also led advocacy efforts to pass MGL c. 69, Section 1N, which established a grant program to create “trauma-sensitive schools.” The “Flexible Framework” for creating safe and supportive whole-school environments proposed in HTCL has served as a basis for the work of the Schools and Behavioral Health Task Force (created pursuant to Section 19 of the Children’s Mental Health Law). It has also influenced the Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan, developed by DESE pursuant to Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010 (“An Act Relative to Bullying”), and the Essential Conditions for School Effectiveness developed by DESE pursuant to Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010 (“An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap”).
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