papertigerswebThe Delavan-Darien School District, in partnership with the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services, will be hosting a public showing of the documentary film “Paper Tigers” on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

This free event will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the DDHS auditorium, 150 Cummings St., Delavan. Light refreshments will be provided.


The community showing of the film is a precursor to a county-wide Trauma Informed Care training for teachers, also being hosted by Delavan-Darien with the help of the Health and Human Services Department. The school district and HHS professionals will hold three days of inservice training for educators from within the district and surrounding schools to help them learn about educating students who have faced adverse childhood experiences, or trauma in their lives (divorce, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, substance abuse, witnessing violence, etc.). Many of these adverse experiences happen to students who are in the war zone of poverty with their families.

Educators often learn of children who have experienced trauma, but my not know how to react or what to modify in their lesson deliveries so they can still effectively teach such children while in school.

The training and the documentary are geared to help teachers and the public, respectively, learn more about adverse childhood experiences and working with people who have experienced them.

About the Movie (

Paper Tigers follows a year in the life of an alternative high school that has radically changed its approach to disciplining its students, becoming a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence and disease that affect families.

“Stressed brains can’t learn.” — That was the nugget of neuroscience that Jim Sporleder, principal of a high school riddled with violence, drugs and truancy, took away from an educational conference in 2010. Three years later, the number of fights at Lincoln Alternative High School had gone down by 75 percent and the graduation rate had increased five-fold. Paper Tigers is the story of how one school made such dramatic progress.

Paper Tigers follows six troubled teens over the course of a year at the high school in rural Walla Walla, Washington. Considered a last chance before dropping out, many students come to Lincoln with a history of behavioral problems, truancy, and substance abuse.

Then, in 2010, Principal Sporleder learned about the science of what a rough childhood does to a developing brain. “Stressed brains can’t learn” was what he took away from that vital educational conference. He returned to his school convinced that traditional punishments like suspension were only exacerbating the problems of the students there.

Sporleder says: “I was hunting everywhere for the curriculum. It’s not a curriculum. So it was trying to figure out, how do you take this theory and put it into practice?”

Sporleder invited the staff, as well as the students, to learn about the landmark Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, which shows that stressful events during childhood—like divorce, domestic violence, or living with someone with a mental illness—massively increases the risk of problems in adulthood. Problems like addiction, suicide and even heart disease have their roots in childhood experience. Suspension became a last resort as the school formed an in-school suspension program, keeping the kids in contact with the staff and caught up with their homework.

They also established a health center on campus so the students would have ready access to pediatricians and mental health counselors. The biggest challenge for the teachers was to consider the source of the kids’ behavior.

Science teacher Erik Gordon realizes: “The behavior isn’t the kid. The behavior is a symptom of what’s going on in their life.”

Told with intimate vérité and diary cam footage, Paper Tigers is a testament to what the latest developmental science is proving: that one caring adult can help break the cycle of adversity in a young person’s life. The movie follows students like Aron, a senior who avoids eye contact and barely speaks in class; freshman Kelsey, who struggles with meth addiction and abusive relationships; and Steven, a senior who has been in and out of juvenile hall since junior high for fights and threatening teachers.

As the teachers slowly gain their students’ trust, they hear harrowing tales of physically abusive and negligent parents, homelessness, sexual abuse… The list goes on.

Despite the upheaval in their home lives, the students find the support they need at Lincoln to make academic progress, and find less destructive ways of coping. They also find hope for becoming healthy and productive adults as they go out into the world.

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