Stressed Brains Can’t Learn: Paper Tigers, A Documentary Film By James Redford On Trauma-Informed Education

Eastern Montana CASA GAL Inc., along with Fallon County Tobacco Prevention, and SMART, will be hosting a screening of Paper Tigers

By Julie Russell RN,

Tobacco Prevention Specialist

Eastern Montana CASA GAL Inc., along with Fallon County Tobacco Prevention, and SMART, will be hosting a screening of Paper Tigers, a film that captures the pain, danger, beauty and hopes of struggling teens – and the teachers armed with new science and fresh approaches that are changing lives for the better.

The documentary film, directed by James Redford and Executive Produced by Karen Pritzker, will be screened on March 2, 2017 at 4 p.m. at the Baker High School ITV Room and is open to the public. Paper Tigers follows a year in the life of an alternative high school in Walla Walla, Wash., that has radically changed its approach to disciplining its students, and in the process has become a promising model for how to break the cycles of poverty, violence and disease that affect families.

Having over twenty years of experience as a teacher, Jim Sporleder came to Lincoln in 2007. Under his leadership, the school gained national attention due to a dramatic decrease in out-of-school suspensions, increased graduation rates, and a higher number of students going on to post-secondary education. Since retiring, Sporleder has continued to work as a trauma-informed education consultant with Children’s Resilience Initiative, based in Walla Walla, and travels the country to present on the topic of trauma.

“We are very excited to screen “Paper Tigers” to your community” says, Cherie LeBlanc-Dyba  Executive Director of Eastern Montana CASA GAL Inc. “in the counties our programs  serve we see many children that have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which impact their school career and transition to adulthood. This film will help us understand about trauma-informed care and brain development in order to assist our children to become successful adults. This includes strategies for preventing and de-escalating problem behavior and learning more about ACEs. Eastern Montana CASA GAL and Tobacco Prevention’s mission is to follow-up with ACE’s training that will provide attendees with a better understanding of Toxic stress in our children today, and to help prepare our children for a responsible, productive citizenship, and Inspire excellence for a lifetime.

Paper Tigers is an intimate look into the lives of selected students at Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youth. Set amidst the struggling rural community of Walla Walla, Wash., the film intimately examines the inspiring promise of Trauma-Informed Communities – a movement that is showing great promise in healing youth struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Following six students over the course of a school year, we see Lincoln’s staff try a new approach to discipline: one based on understanding and treatment rather than judgment and suspension. Using a combination of verite and revealing diary cam footage, Paper Tigers is a testament to what the latest developmental science is showing: that just one caring adult can help break the cycle of adversity in a young person’s life. The film is directed and produced by James Redford with executive producer Karen Pritzker through KPJR Films, LLC. The film premiered on May 28, 2015 at the Seattle International Film Festival.  Paper Tigers has an upcoming companion film titled Resilience, which delves into ACEs neuroscience research and includes portraits of other practitioners putting that science it into action.

James Redford, Director and Producer, makes documentaries that transform important health and environmental issues into stories that educate and inspire. With nine films to date, he’s journeyed far and deep, looking at issues such as water shortage in the west, dyslexia, the dangers of chemical flame retardants as well as why and how chronic stress damages healthy childhood development. Inspired by his own life-saving liver transplant at the age of 30, his first HBO documentary, The Kindness of Strangers explored the hidden heroism of donor families. In his most recent HBO film, HAPPENING – his fifth for HBO – James takes us on an oft humorous “Clean Energy tour for Dummies’” that opens the door to new solutions and real hope. James started his collaboration with Karen Pritzker on HBO’s The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, a film that gave hope to millions of families around the world who have struggled to educate their dyslexic children. From there, they turned their story-telling eye on the hidden menace of adverse childhood experiences. Paper Tigers, currently on the festival and screening circuit, will air on PIVOT TV near the end of 2015. James also co-founded and is current Chair the Redford Center, a film production non-profit that translates complex environmental challenges into human stories that inspire. HBO’s Happening is the Center’s fourth film. Recent honors include the 2014 WildCare Environmental Award, 2015 filmmaker envoy for USC/US State Department’s American Film Showcase as well as serving the leadership circle for the UN’s second annual Media for Social Impact Summit.

Karen Pritzker, Executive Producer of Paper Tigers, is a film producer, editor and writer. She executive produced The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, a documentary that demystified dyslexia and generated widespread awareness of this misunderstood disability. Shown on HBO in 2013, and winner of the Parents’ Choice Award, the film continues to be screened all over the world acting as a starting point for conversation and change. In addition to her film credits, Pritzker co-founded the My Hero Project, an interactive website for kids that is devoted to telling the stories of ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things. She is also President of Seedlings Foundation.


Date:  March 2, 2017

Time:  4 p.m.

Location: Baker High School ITV Room

For more information please contact:  Julie Russell 406-853-3617 or Cherie LeBlanc-Dyba 406-234-2354.

For more information on Paper Tigers and to view the trailer, visit