“Conflicts in school run the gamut, from cyber bullying to serious bodily harm.”Kristin McKay, Director of Restorative Justice, Umoja
“These days, many of those conflicts are rooted in or complicated by social media. Altercations are video recorded and uploaded, sometimes garnering thousands of likes, shares, views, and comments. Teens’ neurocognitive development and decision-making processes make them particularly vulnerable to the worst effects of social platforms.”
“Our foundational restorative justice practice—the entry point to intervention—is a one-on-one conversation. We ask what happened, how they’re feeling about what happened, who or what was impacted by what happened, and what needs to happen next in order to repair the harm. Where both parties to a conflict have had one of these restorative conversations, we bring the two together in a peace circle to figure out how to move toward a solution.”
“Many teens have real difficulty accessing feelings beyond ‘happy,’ ‘mad,’ and ‘sad.’ We encourage them to think of themselves as complex people who feel a range of feelings and who embody those feelings in different ways. Knowing that what you’re feeling is ‘hurt,’ for example, opens up more possibilities for action and resolution than being ‘mad’ does.”
“We also do reentry interventions, when a student comes back to school after a suspension or absence for a personal issue. It’s not enough to say, ‘Get to class.’ Students need a bridge that helps them reenter the community. They need someone to ask, ‘What are your needs moving forward?’”
“All these practices support teens’ social and emotional development, that critical process of maturing, being able to see options and weigh consequences. As important, the data show that by decreasing suspensions, we’re increasing the odds that these kids stay in school and graduate.”
In those same schools, individual and group therapy is helping decrease trauma-related, emotional, and behavioral symptoms in 75 percent of the students who are participating in treatment.
As a strategy to improve health in metropolitan Chicago, investing in evidence-based behavioral health services in schools works in three ways.
It increases the number of students getting care when they need it, reducing symptoms and improving health now. It helps avert the mid- and long-term consequences of neglecting care, such as substance abuse and violence, behaviors that in themselves jeopardize health. And it improves the odds that students will be able to learn, stay in school, and receive a high school diploma, an important predictor for better health outcomes over the lifespan.
Ratio of social workers to students in Chicago Public Schools
A high school diploma significantly increases lifetime earnings, and with them, access to better living conditions, healthier food, and better health insurance. When surveyed, individuals who graduate high school report fewer chronic health conditions—e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, hepatitis, or stomach ulcers—than those who don’t graduate. What’s more, there is correlation between having a diploma and reduced risk of premature death. Even for those who don’t ultimately graduate, the more years of high school finished, the lower the risk compared to those who drop out earlier.
Evidence-based behavioral health interventions can lessen anxiety, depression, anger, disassociation, difficulty concentrating and/or sleeping, eating disorders, and self-harming behaviors. Symptoms or conditions such as these don’t just affect behavior. They bias cognitive processes. Left untreated, they can interfere with long-term social emotional and cognitive development.
Youth Risk Behavior Survey results*
|Feeling sad and hopeless||30.5%||34.7%|
|Made a plan to commit suicide||10.4%||14.8%|
Making behavioral health services available in schools—along with increasing Medicaid enrollment among eligible students, the second part of our school-based strategy—increases access to health care for children and young people who might not otherwise have it. The primary focus of our funding is the Chicago Public Schools, where more than 76 percent of the system’s 360,000 students come from economic disadvantage—including nearly 5 percent who live in shelters, doubled up, in foster care, or “unaccompanied”—and chronic truancy is three times higher than the state average.
Multi-Tiered System of Supports
By targeting neighborhood schools that serve high-need children, supporting health at all ages, and prioritizing comprehensive services that span all three tiers of the Multi-tiered System of Supports, we’re making an impact where it’s needed most.
Bringing evidence-based trauma intervention to high-risk youth in Chicago Public Schools
Grantee: Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
Project: Implement and assess Structured Psychotherapy Responding to Chronic Stress (SPARCS) at four pilot schools
Increasing behavioral and emotional support services for youth
Grantee: Jewish Child and Family Services
Project: Therapeutic Day School
Using mindfulness practices to increase self-awareness, mental focus, and emotional resilience and decrease student behavior incidents
Grantee: Luster Learning Institute
Project: Calm Classroom