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A closer look at student behavioral health issues

Recent grant to the Notebook supports a new focus for our coverage this year
  • ben franklin high
    Photo: Harvey Finkle

Student behavioral health is one of the major issues facing the Philadelphia School District, which for years has struggled to create a positive school climate, deal with “disruptive students,” and provide adequate student supports.

In the words of the local nonprofit Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, “the unrelenting stress caused by abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, extreme poverty, and other adverse childhood experiences can impact the way children learn, play, grow, and function through their lives.”

Over the course of this school year, the Notebook will be writing about that struggle. With support from the van Ameringen Foundation, we will make it the theme of our December issue and also post stories online throughout the year.

We will describe the challenging budget climate and the efforts of the schools, mental health agencies, volunteers, and parents to meet those challenges. In classrooms and communities, we will look at new approaches in support services and tell families when and how to seek help. We will explore the latest research in areas such as the toxic effects of stress and the impact of trauma on brain development.

And we will place particular emphasis on efforts by educators and others to see that their work is “trauma-informed,” a best practice that seeks to change the focus from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”

If you have questions or suggestions for stories, please feel free to contact us at

The van Ameringen Foundation, based in New York, was established in 1950 by the late industrialist Arnold Louis van Ameringen. From its beginning, it has funded prevention, education and direct care in mental health “with an emphasis on those individuals and populations having an impoverished background.”

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Paul Jablow

Paul Jablow is a freelance writer and former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who contributes regularly to the Notebook.