ROANOKE, Va. – Inside Breckenridge Middle School in Roanoke, you’ll find a quiet, dimly-lit room with activities like puzzles and a small sandbox.
“We’ve been having a lot of training about what we can do to help students with trauma and calming and meditation. Those are buzzwords now that people are using," said Breckenridge Principal Tracey Anderson.
The district created the calming room at the beginning of the school year with guidance from the Virginia Department of Education.
“It is not used as a discipline space. It is used as a space where students can calm down and begin to process and think rationally if they’re having issues with peers, teachers, or anyone," Anderson said.
School officials said the calming room has resulted in a significant drop in the number of in-school suspensions at the middle school.
District counseling executive director Taisha Steele said the room is an important part of achieving their goal of moving beyond what she calls being trauma-informed.
“We like to say we’re moving towards trauma responsive. We are at the cutting edge of this," Steele said. "I don’t feel like this is teaching children to be weak. I think it’s actually teaching them to be strong and tap into their inner selves and learn their emotions and learn when they might need to do things like take a deep breath or step away from something so that they don’t make a bad choice or have a bad reaction.”
Anderson said students at each grade level frequently use the room and have found it very helpful.