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Screening – Paper Tigers
April 24, 2018Free
Free Paper Tigers Movie Screening at 12pm and at 3pm at the Gordon Early Literacy Center in Coatesville on April 24th.
Paper Tigers follows six troubled teens over the course of a year at Lincoln Alternative High
School in rural Walla Walla, Washington. Considered a last chance before dropping out, many
students come to Lincoln with a history of behavioral problems, truancy, and substance abuse.
Then, in 2010, Principal Jim Sporleder learned about the science of what a rough childhood does
to a developing brain. “Stressed brains can’t learn” was what he took away from an educational
conference. He returned to his school convinced that traditional punishments like suspension
were only exacerbating the problems of the students there. Sporleder says: “I was hunting everywhere
for the curriculum. It’s not a curriculum. So it was trying to figure out, how do you take this
theory and put it into practice?”
Sporleder invited the staff, as well as the students, to learn about the landmark Adverse Childhood
Experiences (ACE) Study, which shows that stressful events during childhood—like divorce,
domestic violence, or living with someone with a mental illness—massively increases the risk of
problems in adulthood. Problems like addiction, suicide and even heart disease have their roots
in childhood experience. Suspension became a last resort as the school formed an in-school suspension
program, keeping the kids in contact with the staff and caught up with their homework.
They also established a health center on campus so the students would have ready access to pediatricians
and mental health counselors. The biggest challenge for the teachers was to consider
the source of the kids’ behavior. Science teacher Erik Gordon realizes: “The behavior isn’t the kid.
The behavior is a symptom of what’s going on in their life.”
Told with intimate vérité and diary cam footage, Paper Tigers is a testament to what the latest
developmental science is proving: that one caring adult can help break the cycle of adversity in
a young person’s life. We follow students like Aron, a senior who avoids eye contact and barely
speaks in class; freshman Kelsey, who struggles with meth addiction and abusive relationships;
and Steven, a senior who has been in and out of juvenile hall since junior high for fights and
threatening teachers. As the teachers slowly gain their students’ trust, they hear harrowing tales
of physically abusive and negligent parents, homelessness, sexual abuse… The list goes on.
Despite the upheaval in their home lives, the students find the support they need at Lincoln to
make academic progress, and find less destructive ways of coping. They also find hope for becoming
healthy and productive adults as they go out into the world.