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Paper Tigers Film Review

Prior to the arrival of Principal Jim Sporleder, Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Walla, Washington was known as the final stop between public schools and prison for 300 of the most challenged students in the state. Rather than fixate on the negative behavior of his students, Mr. Sporleder decided to engage with the root cause of their actions.

Informed by the adverse childhood experience (ACE) study, Sporleder and his staff concluded that traumatic incidents from childhood affect victims neurologically such that learning is physiologically impossible. As opposed to traditional discipline policies, Lincoln Alternative High School practices trauma informed care which seeks to provide stability, build trust, and promote self-esteem when educating and disciplining students.

Paper Tigers is a poignant documentary by James Redford that follows Mr. Sporleder, as well as the students and faculty of Lincoln Alternative High School following their transformation from one of Washington’s most infamous schools to a standard-bearer for restorative justice and trauma-informed care. This film is a must-watch for anyone interested in the school-to-prison pipeline, education, or nonviolent remediation.

reviewed by intern Dalton Cooper

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