PAPER TIGERS Documentary Shows Positive Effects of Trauma-Informed Program


Photos by Soren Sum.

Trauma is a significant factor in the education process. It brings unwanted and unnecessary stress to a child’s personal and educational development, which is what the free screening of the documentary Paper Tigers, hosted by The Guidance Center (TGC) yesterday at the Art Theatre, sought to address.

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Paper Tigers, set in 2013, depicts five Lincoln Alternative High School students and their struggles to overcome trauma in a rural community in Walla Walla, Washington. Throughout the documentary, the students share their adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and cope with trauma with help from their teachers. Ultimately, they lead happy lives after graduation.


The screening is part of TGC and Beach High School’s efforts to inform the Long Beach community about the It’s About T.I.M.E. (Trauma-Informed Movement in Education) model. The hosts said they hoped that leaders in Long Beach recognize the model, which aims to allow students with ACEs better cope with trauma. The program was recently launched at Beach High.


Those attending the screening included Neurosequential Model in Education (NME) Project Director for The ChildTrauma Academy Steve Graner, Assistant Superintendent of School Support Services at Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) Tiffany Brown, TGC’s clinical therapist and T.I.M.E. Program Director Nathan Swaringen, and Beach High School teacher Britt Sexton.

The screening started with a brief introduction by Graner, who recounted how he started with NME theory. It was then followed by the documentary and, lastly, a panel discussion with Graner, Sexton and Swaringen. They spoke about methods of the program that utilizes a trauma-informed approach.

TIC 2According to Swaringen, two methods for approaching the subject currently exist. The first, he said, deals with student and staff relationships, most of which is processed abundantly in Paper Tigers.

“As you saw in the movie, these children need compassion, patience, understanding and empathy,” Swaringen said. “Relationships are the most healing part [of program].”

The second method of the program, Swaringen said, deals with sensory relaxation methods.

“Sensory regulating activities could be many different creative things,” Swaringen said. “ It could be Play-Doh, going for a walk, providing rhythm, breaks from classrooms and many other similar activities. All of these children [from the movie] have come from traumatic and stressful backgrounds. They may not look like it, but they’re constantly stressed and dysregulated. Before you can control these behaviors, you have to regulate them and that’s with sensory relaxation.”

According to a TGC release, the ultimate goal is to bring the trauma-informed program to all schools in LBUSD. TGC also aims to continue working closely with Beach High to track overall campus and individual student progress.

“Without [understanding], the program cannot succeed and I’m happy to say that there’s amazing relationships and receptivity from the [school] staff,” Swaringen said. “[Paper Tigers] is really good for promoting [the program’s] awareness. I’m inspired.”

For past coverage about trauma-informed care, click here.

This story was updated on October 14 at 9:15AM. A previous version of this story stated Tiffany Brown took part in a panel discussion when, in fact, it was Britt Sexton. 

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