Public School Forum of North Carolina

State Level: NC



Six in 10 individuals have at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE). Research has shown ACEs produce high levels of stress hormones that cause chemically toxic effects on regions of the brain that deal with problem-solving and decision-making. Educators see ACEs manifest in negative and disruptive behavior, but often this is a result of students functioning in a constant state of high alert.


Early findings show that trauma-informed schools initiatives result in increased school attendance by 34% and decreased suspension rates by 30-90%.


Through the NC Resilience & Learning Project, Public School Forum (PSF) works to shift the culture of an entire school and provide teachers with the expertise they need to support students dealing with ACEs. In 2018-19, PSF partnered with 16 schools in eight counties and plans to expand into an additional school in 2019-20.

The Project has two core components: (1) creation of a Resilience Team, a core group of school staff who champion the initiative and meet bi-weekly and (2) professional development for all school staff.

Given that teachers report an increasing portion of educational time spent managing behaviors, the Project helps schools develop and implement alternatives to the typical disciplinary responses. Ultimately with trauma-sensitive practices, the goal is for schools to have increased academic achievement and lower discipline referrals.

“Research has documented the disturbingly high prevalence of traumatic experiences in childhood,” said Elizabeth DeKonty, Project Director at PSF. “Educators are on the front lines, responding every day to the challenges students bring with them to school. The NC Resilience and Learning Project helps give educators tools to support students as they cope with adversity and engage in the learning process.”

Since 2017, The Belk Foundation has invested $175,000 in Public School Forum's NC Resilience & Learning Project.