It was the 2015-16 school year when an incoming fifth grader named Jazmine* was first introduced to CIS-TN. Jazmine had a vibrant personality and enjoyed playing, dancing, and singing with her friends at recess. Being a middle child with eight siblings, she wasn’t afraid to speak up for herself or her peers. She refused to be silent, often acting as a bold communicator of injustice when she felt her peers or herself were not being heard.
Having witnessed several violent crimes, the structured environment of school left no space for Jazmine’s trauma. She frequently came to school exhausted having only slept two hours the night before due to nightmares and insomnia related to stress and anxiety. Oftentimes, she acted out her frustration by walking out of class, shouting words of defense as she ran down the hallway kicking lockers, and ultimately received multiple suspensions. Unfortunately, her fifth-grade year Jazmine was retained due to excessive absences – many of which were due to suspensions.
Coming to school in a whirlwind of chaos, it was difficult for Jazmine to self-regulate her emotions and return to a peaceful state of learning. Jazmine’s CIS-TN coordinator Ms. Smith* put Jazmine in a small group with her peers who were also struggling with self-regulation. Together they learned how to self-regulate and manage conflict in small organic environments. By the end of her seventh-grade year, Jazmine was a mentor to her younger peers in the small group. Her coordinator also connected her to a therapist and mentor. And she knew she could always depend on Ms. Smith to help her calm down. Each year Jasmine’s attendance and her self-regulation skills increased. This past school year was Jazmine’s eighth grade year and she ended it with zero suspension incidents. “As I stood six feet from her this past May, watching her place her red cap upon her head, tears came to my eyes. I was reminded of all the walks down the hallway to calm the girl with the boisterous voice, the poignant stare, and the uncertain future. I was filled with hope to see the beautiful black girl who shared space with her and the hopeful path ahead.” – Ms. Smith Congratulations, Jazmine! You did it!
*Student and coordinator names have been changed to protect their identities.