Awareness, Understanding, and
Action: Working with Refugees in
the School Setting
Idaho Conference on Refugees
Boise Idaho
February 5, 2013
Lisa Sterling, Ph.D., NCSP
Jacque Parenti, M.S., NCSP
Katie Webber, Ed.S.
School Psychologists
Boise School District
Introductions
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Get to know presenters
Get to know audience
WORKSHOP
DESCRIPTION
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AWARENESS of the challenges faced by our
youth as they enter Idaho schools
UNDERSTANDING the myriad of issues that
they may face including mental health
problems, disabilities, and stigma
surrounding accessing programs and
services
Taking ACTION and building the capacity to
meet the needs of this population in the
school setting
Boise School District
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Approximately 2200 students in ELL
programs
Over 100 languages spoken by
students
Borah High School
Bridge Program:
 For students new to country
 Currently have 77 students in grades
10-12
 Students are from 22 countries and
speak more than 40 languages
Borah ELL Program:
 250 students
Boise Parents of English
Learners (BPEL)
The purpose of BPEL is to help parents
of English learners access information,
discuss relevant topics, and provide
input for program improvement.
Borah High School recently hosted the
Rice Festival.
AWARENESS
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Get to know cultures in your
community
Research the countries, cultures,
customs, practices, language
AWARENESS
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What have refugees been through?
– Surviving many years of civil conflict and political terror that killed
thousands, possibly even family members and friends
– Years in chaos of war and refugee camp
– Physical injury, assault, illness, malnutrition
– Stressful life events and little control over those events
– Separation from family members
– Forced prematurely into adult roles
– Deprived of school, health care, social services
– Continuous worry about family left behind
– Abruptions to daily life and routine
– Loss of possessions, familiar environment, family members, friends,
neighbors
– Need to survive in a completely new and unknown environment
Refugee Students in American Classrooms by Olga Tuchman at the Indiana Dept. of Education Language Minority and Migrant
Programs www.doe.state.in.us/lmmp; The Center for Victims of Torture
AWARENESS
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Stress on refugees
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Bad news from home
Racial or ethnic discrimination
High crime residential areas
Language, service, transportation barriers
Inadequate education
Economic stress
Psychological and physical effects of trauma
Role reversal
The Center for Victims of Torture
AWARENESS
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Refugee students
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Many refugees have limited formal schooling
Many refugees are pre-literate in their native language
Many refugees have no experience with Western society
Many refugees are pre-technological
Many refugees were born in camps and never knew life
outside the camps
Refugee Students in American Classrooms by Olga Tuchman at the Indiana Dept. of
Education Language Minority and Migrant Programs
www.doe.state.in.us/lmmp
AWARENESS
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Refugee parents
– Many parents have a difficult time transitioning
to American life
– Many parents assimilate slower than their
children
– Many parents have economic and resettlement
burdens
Refugee Students in American Classrooms by Olga Tuchman at the Indiana Dept. of Education Language
Minority and Migrant Programs
www.doe.state.in.us/lmmp
AWARENESS
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Common trauma reactions
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Fears, worries
Physical complaints
Attention, memory problems
Nightmares, sleep problems
Post-traumatic play
Regression, separation anxiety
Anger, hostility, aggression
Apathy, withdrawal, avoidance
Sadness, depression
Survivor guilt
Risky, dangerous behavior
The Center for Victims of Torture
AWARENESS
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Mental Health
Stigma and shame
“Crazy”
Spiritual beliefs regarding disabilities
Internalizing and Externalizing problems
Views of Western medicine and counseling
Lack of early intervention services and
prenatal care in prior country
UNDERSTANDING
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Survival skills may appear maladaptive (e.g.
fighting, stealing)
School was not always a safe place
Fight or flight response
Identity
– Traditional, native culture
– New culture, wanting to fit in
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Issues that affect American youth also affect
refugee youth (identify, independence)
Role reversal and shift of power with parent and
children
Discrepancy with American parenting practices
UNDERSTANDING
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Recognize the trauma and stress of the
entire family
– Came to the U.S. to escape trauma yet find that
they often carry the trauma with them
– Power-shift places them in a dependent position
– Collaborate with those providing assistance to
others in the family (elementary, junior high,
parents, elders)
Helping Immigrant and Refugee Students Succeed: It’s Not Just What Happens in the
Classroom the Center of Health and Health Care in Schools www.healthinschools.org
UNDERSTANDING
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Don’t make assumptions
– Environment: materials, terminology, sitting in desks,
restrooms, playground
– Interactions: comfort level with authority figures, level of
understanding, fear of reprimand
– Safety: Getting on a bus, leaving home, walking to school,
corporal punishment
– Daily Life: American customs, hygiene, involving parents in
school events
Tips for Teachers Helping Refugee Children Transition to American Schools (2006)
International Rescue Committee www.rescue.org
UNDERSTANDING
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Parent Involvement
– American view of parental involvement
– School staff often correlate parents “showing up” with their level
of interest in their child’s education
– Barriers to getting to school (interpreter, transportation, child
care, work schedule)
– Families may not be aware this is an expectation or be familiar
with school procedures (e.g. grades, homework)
– Families may be uncomfortable discussing their children in a
negative way
– Families may be intimidated
– Many parents view teachers as experts and may not realize they
have a right to speak up about their child’s education
Involving Refugee Parents in Their Children’s Education (2007) Monthly spotlight www.Brycs.org; Tips for
Teachers from International Rescue Committee www.rescue.org
UNDERSTANDING
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Language
– Receptive
– Expressive
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Silent period
http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/pre_producti_silent_period_93415.php
ACTION
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Need for a safe place and security
Education for teachers (notebooks, handouts)
Build cultural competence
Consult with specialists inside and outside of school
(SLP, psychologist, counselor, resettlement agency,
doctors, social workers, law enforcement, etc.)
Opportunities for them to teach you something
about their culture. Let them help others instead of
always being on the receiving end—empower them
Celebrate diversity in school-spotlight cultures,
bread/rice night, talent show
ACTION
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10 Tips for Schools
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Embrace diversity and accept the challenges
Be flexible in communication
Communicate clearly
Utilize community resources and cultural brokers
Reach out and offer support to parents and families
Create liaisons with cultural community leaders and organizations
Foster community partnerships with school activities
Be aware of your own cultural views
Develop a resource “bank” of interpreters, resources, medical
providers, community
– Make services available to all students
Children of Immigrants and Refugees: What the Research Tells Us from The Center of Health and Health Care in Schools
www.healthinschools.org
ACTION
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Strategies for engaging parents
– Build relationships with families
 Safety, support, caring, trust
 Help with other issues (housing, medical, employment)
 Stronger families = stronger students
 School activities—identify barriers
 Welcoming school environment
 Translated/interpreted documents and conversations
 “I need to speak to you” card
– Break down the stigma
 Avoid “mental health” or other stigmatizing terms and focus on
behaviors (e.g. anger, sadness)
 Normalizing
Helping Immigrant and Refugee Students Succeed: It’s Not Just What Happens in the Classroom the Center of Health and Health
Care in Schools www.healthinschools.org; Involving Refugee Parents in Their Children’s Education (2007) Monthly spotlight
www.Brycs.org; Partnering with Parents and Families to Support Immigrant and Refugee Children at School (2009) from the
Center of Health and Health Care in Schools www.healthinschools.org
ACTION
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Strategies for working with students
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Mentoring relationships
Classroom and school orientation
Peer buddies
Provide clear behavioral expectations
Directly teach appropriate behaviors
Provide safety, structure, nurturance, and consistency
Prepare for transitions
Use art, writing, drawing for expression
Recognize their strength and resiliency
Recognize symptoms of PTSD
Share concerns with parents
Link to outside supports
Refugee Students in American Classrooms by Olga Tuchman at the Indiana Dept. of Education Language Minority and Migrant Programs ww.doe.state.in.us/lmmp;
The Center for Victims of Torture
ACTION: Interviews
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Home visit
Importance of interpreter
Caution in using siblings to interpret
Build rapport and trust
Explain reason for asking questions
Talk to all family members-gives
“permission” for all parties to speak
Asking “why” (e.g. why wasn’t she in
school?)
ACTION: Interviews
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What do you think caused your child’s difficulty?
When did you first have concerns?
Comparison to siblings
Is this typical in your culture?
What goals do you have for your child? What would you like to see
them doing in 5 or 10 years?
What does your child do on a typical day? What do your other
children do?
Literacy in native language
Previous school experiences
Trauma
Medical background (head injury, seizure, malaria, prematurity)
Developmental milestones
Listen…they have a story to tell
ACTION: Collaboration
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Resettlement agencies
School liaisons
Medical
Counseling
Specialists
Law Enforcement, School Resource Officer
(SRO)
RESOURCES: Books
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“The Arrival” by Shaun Tan
“Home of the Brave” by Katherine Applegate
“Middle of Anywhere” by Mary Pipher
“Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmael Beah
“They Poured Fire on Us: True Story of Three Lost Boys of Sudan” by Benson
Deng, Alephonsion and Benjamin Ajak
“First They Killed My Father,” “Lucky Child” by Loung Ung
“My Name is Yoon” by Helen Recorvits
“Listen to the Wind” by Greg Mortensen and Susan Roth
“Route to Peace” by Fidel Nshombo
RESOURCES: Local and
National
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World Refugee Day June 20, 2013
International Women’s Day March 8,
2013
Idaho Office for Refugees Community
Coordination
See vendors at the conference
The Flicks
Farmer’s Market
RESOURCES: Online
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Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services
(www.brycs.org)
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International Rescue Committee Youth
Backgrounders
(http://www.rescue.org/sites/default/files/migrated/where/united_states_salt
_lake_city_ut/refugee-backgrounders.pdf)
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U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
(www.refugees.org)
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Cultural Orientation Resource Center
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Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning
(www.culturalorientation.net)
(www.spring-
institute.org)
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The Center for Victims of Torture
(www.cvt.org)
RESOURCES: Webinars
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Center for Health and Health Care in
the Schools (www.healthinschools.org)
Children’s Hospital for Refugee
Trauma and Resiliency at Children’s
Hospital Boston
(http://childrenshospital.org/clinicalservices/Site3448/mainpageS3448P0.html)
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National Child Traumatic Stress
Network (www.nctsn.org)
CLOSURE ACTIVITY
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Share one thing you will tell a
colleague when you return to work or
school.
Share one strategy you will implement
or idea you will try when you return to
work or school.
Share one resource you will explore
after this workshop.
REFERENCES
Children of Immigrants and Refugees: What the Research Tells Us from The Center of Health
and Health Care in Schools www.healthinschools.org
Helping Immigrant and Refugee Students Succeed: It’s Not Just What Happens in the
Classroom the Center of Health and Health Care in Schools www.healthinschools.org
Involving Refugee Parents in Their Children’s Education (2007) Monthly spotlight
www.Brycs.org
Mental Health of Refugees (1996) UNHCR/WHO
http://www.unhcr.org/publ/PUBL/3bc6eac74.pdf
Partnering with Parents and Families to Support Immigrant and Refugee Children at School
(2009) from the Center of Health and Health Care in Schools www.healthinschools.org
Preproduction and The Silent Period
(http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/pre_producti_silent_period_93415.php)
Refugee Students in American Classrooms by Olga Tuchman at the Indiana Dept. of
Education Language Minority and Migrant Programs
www.doe.state.in.us/lmmp
The Center for Victims of Torture (www.cvt.org)
Tips for Teachers Helping Refugee Children Transition to American Schools (2006)
International Rescue Committee www.rescue.org
CONTACT INFORMATION
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Lisa Sterling
– [email protected]
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Jacque Parenti
– [email protected]
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Katie Webber
– [email protected]
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