School-Based Policies to Identify Adversity in Childhood and Mitigate the Effects of Toxic Stress in Texas
Drawing on evidence and example legislation, this policy research brief identifies school-based policy options for Texas to prevent and mitigate toxic stress caused by Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). The term ACEs refers to the 10 common categories of adversity included in a landmark study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente (Felliti et al., 1998). These include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; physical or emotional neglect; and household challenges such as living with a person who is experiencing mental illness (Felliti et al., 1998). Of great concern is that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, ACEs were already widespread in the state, cutting across lines of race and income and potentially affecting constituents from every region and demographic group (Texas Department of State Health Services, n.d.). Over the past two years, COVID-19-related school and child-care center closures coupled with an economic recession have increased children’s risk of hunger, homelessness, and neglect (Welch & Haskins, 2020). The effects of ACEs are particularly concerning in Texas which is home to over 7.5 million children under 18—more than any state other than California—and children under 18 make up more than 25% of the population of Texas—more than any other state other than Utah (Population Reference Bureau, n.d.). Therefore, Texas’s school-based policies to mitigate the effects of toxic stress are particularly consequential now and in the future. The purpose of this policy research brief is to identify and describe nationwide legislative efforts to help Texas school district officials and Texas policymakers consider legislative remedies to reduce or mitigate the detrimental impact of ACEs.