Sunday, May 15, 2016

Courtroom to Classroom

Robert Lominack
Latin Teacher at Dreher High 
Co-Founder, Achieve Columbia

Contact Mr. Lominack:
Twitter: @RobertLominack

“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” ~Laurell K. Hamilton, Mistral's Kiss

There's a reason I am a teacher. I spent almost 15 years investigating and trying to tell the stories of men on death row. In each case, I learned every imaginable detail about their families and their childhoods. The trauma that they endured was not always extreme or unique. In fact, it was the type of trauma that many of our students face. But the consequences were extreme and debilitating. Of course, I had the advantage of being able to look back and trace the story from the beginning to the tragic end. I quit being a lawyer, because I wanted to be a part of the story before it had been written, when there was still time to help change the trajectory of their lives.

Interestingly, attorneys who represent death row inmates have to be very knowledgeable about childhood trauma and mental health issues. In fact, our clients' childhoods were the most important part of their story, because this part of their life set the stage for what was to come. Therefore, in addition to being trained in mental health issues, in every case we worked with a full team of mental health folks (psychologist, psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, and social worker at a minimum). I am worried that we are not providing teachers the knowledge, training, and support to work with students who suffer from childhood trauma and mental illness. So we often miss opportunities to help, we are impatient when we need to be more understanding, and we give up because we just don't know what to do. 

By the time many kids reach middle school they have absorbed years of trauma. It takes patience - months, not days - to work with these kids and get them back on track. Until schools focus on this aspect of teaching, we will continue to do a mediocre job at working with the children who need us the most. Nobody should be content with that. But we will not be able to change our results until we have changed our practices.

I am hopeful that we can begin to do that.

 Achieve Columbia
Click to view website

Article on the Paper Tigers Documentary


As principal of Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Washington, Jim Sporleder is credited with helping change the culture of the alternative school. Lincoln has gained national attention as a “trauma-informed” school.

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