Paper Tigers Recap

by Kathie Graydon, Dorector of Education and Community Relations

Heartland for Children was pleased to host three film screenings of the much anticipated documentary, Paper Tigers, here in Lakeland, Sebring, and Winter Haven in November 2015.  HFC partnered with Prevent Child Abuse Florida to bring this film to our community. Paper Tigers intimately examines the inspiring promise of Trauma Informed Communities – a movement that is showing great promise in healing individuals struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Lincoln High School & Trauma Informed Practices

  • Paper Tigers follows a year in the life of Lincoln Alternative High School which has radically changed its approach to disciplining its students after the principal learned about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Studies.
  • Lincoln Alternative High School was riddled with violence, drugs and truancy.
  • In 2010, Jim Sporleder, principal of Lincoln Alternative, learned what neuroscience tells us about the effects of stress on the brain. He learned that “Stressed brains can’t learn.” That was an important nugget. He took this knowledge and acted upon it in his school.
  • Three years later, the number of fights at Lincoln had gone down by 75% and the graduation rate had increased five-fold.
  • Despite the upheaval in their home lives, the students find the support they need at Lincoln to make academic progress, and find less destructive ways of coping.


Over 300 individuals were able to watch the film screenings hosted by Heartland for Children as well as be a part of the post-screening discussion. A moderator led the discussion with a panel of professionals from the local community. Questions were directed to the panel members then the audience was offered the opportunity to respond.

Overall, the film was well received and the audience was eager to see some of the techniques/systems put into place in their community. There were over 115 people interested in being further engaged in the conversation and planning that will move our community to be more trauma informed.

Get Involved

These efforts are continuing here locally with additional screenings of the film and planning activities. Anyone interested in participating can connect with Kathie Graydon at or at (863) 519-8900 x 205.