Film shows how one school found success

Free screening April 5

By Sue Cody


“Paper Tigers” is a film of hope, possibilities and courage. It features the Walla Walla, Wash., community and Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youth. It gives an intimate look at their challenges and shows how changing the way one approaches problems has a dramatic effect on success.


Way to Wellville and the Columbia Pacific Coordinated Care Organization are sponsoring a free public showing April 5 at the Liberty Theater. The film will also be used in schools as an education tool. This was made possible by a grant from Providence Health & Services. Food and information will be provided, and a panel discussion on Trauma Informed Care will follow the screening.


About the film


Lincoln High School was sometimes referred to as “the dumping ground” for troubled students.


In 2009-10, there were:


           • 798 suspensions (days students were out of school)

           • 50 expulsions

           • 600 written referrals


That was before Principal Jim Sporleder had an awakening, writes Jane Ellen Stevens in an article for Sporleder heard developmental molecular biologist John Medina report: “Severe and chronic trauma (such as living with an alcoholic parent or watching in terror as your mom gets beat up) causes toxic stress in kids. Toxic stress damages kid’s brains. When trauma launches kids into flight, fight or fright mode, they cannot learn. It is physiologically impossible.”


As a way to seek comfort from this toxic stress, youths typically turn to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.


At Lincoln, after educators changed practices by taking traumatic experiences into account and greeting unruly behavior with kindness rather than discipline, students’ behavior changed. They became more engaged with school. The numbers also changed. There were 75 percent fewer fights and a three-fold increase in students heading to college.


In 2010-11 there were:


           • 135 suspensions (days students were out of school)

           • 30 expulsions

           • 320 written referrals


Directed by James Redford, “Paper Tigers” shows the dramatic changes in attitudes, engagement and success.


“‘Paper Tigers’ follows many of the students affected by ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and beautifully illustrates the paradigm shift from blaming and punishment to understanding and healing,” says Way to Wellville advisory board member Debbie Morrow.


Why show the film here?


Way to Wellville is bringing this film to the community because “we know many of our residents are dealing with generational trauma coupled with the culture of poverty, unemployment and hopelessness,” Morrow says.


“It is our hope that we can begin the conversation of what it means to be a Trauma-Informed Community, creating holistic pathways from prenatal to college/workforce that is focused on building resilience in our children. The investment in early childhood development will ultimately create a stronger, healthier, resilient child who in turn develops into a stronger, healthier, resilient adult,” Morrow says. For more information about the film, see: