At Paladin, we have made a conscious decision to address the emotional distress from which many of our students suffer. In 2012, we began incorporating the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) into school programming in an effort to help foster our students’ innate resiliency.
The ACEs Study was administered by the Centers for Disease Control to explore the difficulties people face in adulthood when they suffer Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The study found that when a child suffers from adverse experiences (traumatic events), they are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, abuse, mental health, behavioral regulation and have difficulty coping with adversity.
One of the cornerstones of the Paladin approach is to address the difficulties that trauma and a high ACEs score (high amount of adverse childhood experiences) incurs on the lives of our students.
We value supporting our students in more than just academics. To meet these emotional and social needs, Paladin has created a student-centered, trauma-sensitive care community where all staff are trained in Trauma-Informed Care. By understanding the impacts of trauma, we have developed a safe and supportive environment where positive student relationships are paramount. By cultivating an environment of inclusion and acceptance, students develop the confidence to further their learning. We recognize the hardships that our students face. Students’ social and emotional needs are met by a diverse group of mental health professionals with a focus on overcoming adversity and building resiliency. We utilize support seminars and comprehensive mental health services to assist our students in all areas of their lives. To better support the behavioral needs our our students, Paladin utilizes a restorative practice model to bring issues and conflicts forward in a helpful and healing way.
We know that if a student’s basic needs are not being met, they are going to have a difficult time focusing on their academics. In addition to administering the ACES assessment to all students, we also administer our own supplemental questions that we believe impact student achievement, which we call the ACES Plus.
A report on Paladin’s Trauma-Sensitive approach was published in December of 2016 by American Public Media. To read that article and listen to an accompanying podcast with teacher and student interviews follow the link below:
Unlike traditional disciplinary models, Paladin Career and Technical High School uses Restorative Practice. When a conflict arises at school, instead of using a prescribed punishment (suspension, expulsion, etc.) a Restorative Practice team member will meet with the student and others involved in the conflict. In this meeting, the parties will discuss the participants’ behavior(s), the cause and effect of the situation, and create a plan to repair the relationship between the involved parties.
Similar to the Restorative Practice model, Paladin Career and Technical High School also utilizes peer mediation and circle processes in order to resolve conflict and repair relationships between students and/or staff. The school’s Restorative team members specialize in mediation and circle process facilitation to handle these situations. In effect, the school culture is more unified and Paladin Career and Technical High School is able to create an environment where students feel accepted and valued despite previous incidents.
Disrupting the Status Quo:
Case Study of Paladin Career and Technical High School’s Use of Restorative Practices
A dissertation by Jennifer K. Blevins
This dissertation research is a qualitative case study to describe and explore the experiences of staff and students using restorative practices at Paladin Career and Technical High School (Paladin), a 9-12 grade charter school in Blaine, Minnesota. Restorative practices were introduced in schools as an alternative means of handling problems as they arise; however have expanded as a whole school approach to build community, develop empathy, improve school climate and prevent problems before they occur. The aim of this study was to describe, 1) The process and turning points in integrating restorative practices at Paladin, 2) The students and staff understandings of restorative practices and the impact, 3) The implications for future school-based restorative practices at Paladin, and 4) What this case study analysis suggests about school-based restorative practices, policies and impact in general. All phases of the research were carried out through a critical race lens. Data at Paladin was collected through the review of archival documents and school policies, participant observations and interviews with seven staff and seven students. The research suggests Paladin disrupts the status quo for students and staff by making the system fit the individual not the individual fit the system, restoring self, strengthening interpersonal relationships, being a safer school, and focusing on solutions not suspensions. Key findings and potential implications are discussed for Paladin, restorative practitioners, other school stakeholders and for public policy.