They are known as ACEs, but they won’t win anybody a card game.
The acronym stands for adverse childhood experiences, a general term for experiences ranging from child abuse to sexual abuse to neglect. For those subjected to them, life tends to be a struggle, one characterized by numerous health, social, and behavioral problems lifelong in duration, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Kris Croteau, a school counselor at Messalonskee Middle School, is well aware of the negative impact ACEs, and that’s why she took the steps to bring the movie “Paper Tigers” to Messalonskee High School for a 6:00 p.m. showing on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in the Performing Arts Center – admission is free.
The documentary focuses on a high school in the state of Washington that adopts an alternative disciplinary approach to these ACEs’ impacted students, an approach that puts an emphasis on understanding and compassion.
“I’m hoping just doing the showing will help to enlighten some educators,” Croteau said.
To a large extent, Croteau said the trouble is too many schools have a one policy fits all approach to discipline. Instead, she said, educators need to realize that students are shaped by the experiences they have in their early years, and if those experiences are troubled ones – child abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, etc. – those students are likely to develop behavioral problems that brand them as troublemakers.
Such students, Croteau said, often need to be handled differently from classmates that have been fortunate to have had childhoods without such experiences.
“We have to break away from the whole cookie-cutter approach to discipline,” Croteau said.
Croteau managed to acquire funds from a grant to buy the film. With the same funds, she also purchased the movies “Wonder” and “Resilience.” “Resilience” is a production produced by the same filmmakers responsible for “Paper Tigers.”
“Wonder” is a story about the challenges faced by a student with facial deformities. Croteau said that film will be shown Nov. 20 at Messalonskee High School. While a specific show date has yet to be determined for “Resilience,” Croteau said it will be some time next spring.
written by Colin Hickey