The school trauma-informed movement is grounded in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) research, which has informed professional development, philosophies, understandings of students’ lives, and school interventions. In recent years, there has been growing advocacy for ACE screenings and the use of “ACE score” data to inform individual and school interventions. This application of the ACE framework raises a number of ethical concerns for K-12 school professionals, particularly since high ACE scores are associated with dismal life trajectories for students who are not “resilient” enough to overcome their hardships. This article challenges the frequent claim that the trauma-informed frameworks move school professional views of students away from a perspective that ‘there is something wrong with them’ to a more compassionate, ‘something happened to them.’ It demonstrates how the broader narrative of the ACE framework more accurately sends educators and students the message that there is something wrong with them because something happened to them. It provides an overview of the ACE movement, its role in education, and aims to open a critical dialogue about its dangerous applications in schools.

Author Biography

Alex Winninghoff

Alex Winninghoff is a doctoral candidate in the department of Education Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia. Her research is focused on the development, influence, and growth of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) campaign and its practical applications through “trauma-informed” frameworks and organizational philosophies.

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