Successful 2015 GW/NASP Public Policy Institute
About a month ago, NASP wrapped up our annual GW/NASP Public Policy Institute (PPI) in partnership with George Washington University. This is my first year working at NASP and helping plan for the institute, as well as my first time attending PPI! We had almost 100 school psychologists, graduate students, administrators and others interest in education policy from 25 states turn out this year.
I graduated from American University in December, where I majored in Public Communication and minored in Psychology. I have always been interested in education policy, which influenced my decision to attend college in D.C. Before even attending, PPI seemed to me like a really great event for someone who wants to learn more about education policy and get their feet wet with advocacy- in addition to learning how this pertains to the school psychology field. So while I was excited to work hard to ensure this year’s PPI ran smoothly- I was also very excited to see what new information I could learn pertaining to this year’s topic: “Creating Trauma Sensitive Schools: Supportive Policies and Practices for Learning”.
Although I enjoyed learning about current events on the Hill and in the Department of Education, it was Stacy Overstreet's presentation that particularly resonated with me. Dr. Overstreet, from Tulane University, gave a presentation on Day 4 of PPI on ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences). Having taken a “Stress, Coping, and Emotion” class in college we often talked about traumatic life events and their effect on people, but we mostly focused on adult experiences and this study on ACES was new to me.
She explained the original ACES study conducted at Kaiser Permanente in the late 90’s that included experiences such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, extreme poverty, death of loved one/caregiver, etc. She later went on to define the more recent and updated study of ACES as, “overlapping sets of traumatic and adverse childhood experiences and home environment factors that substantially increase a child’s risk for serious, lifelong medical and mental illnesses”.
The new definition grew to include experiences such as community violence, serious injury, school violence, natural disaster, war/terrorism, forced displacement, etc. I found this study extremely important to talk about at this year’s PPI amongst school psychologists and other school staff/ administrators. Although I’m sure many people in the audience were familiar with the study, it is important to remember that a number of factors can contribute to a traumatic event for a child and some of these can occur in schools.
I look forward to helping school psychologists advocate for policies and practices that create trauma informed schools. One resource I would recomend to do so is an article by Eric Rossen and Kathy Cowan, "The Role of Schools in Supporting Traumatized Students". All and all, I think this year’s PPI was a success and I am so happy to have been a part of it!