From aromatherapy to anger management: How schools are addressing the 'crisis' of childhood trauma

Jeff Clark, a school counselor at Ridgeview Elementary in Yakima, Washington, teaches a lesson on how to deal with bullies.Brock Stoneham / NBC News

YAKIMA, Wash. — Instead of going outside for recess on a recent Friday, fifth-grader Thomas Stevenson walked down a hallway in Ridgeview Elementary School and entered a dimly lit room.

Inside, lavender aromatherapy filled the air, spa-like music played and a projector broadcast clouds onto a screen. Passing by bean bag chairs on the floor and chess sets on tables, Thomas picked up some Legos and began building an elaborate structure.

Thomas, 11, was spending his recess in this converted classroom, known as the Calm Room, by choice. At his previous school, he often got into fights on the playground. His first school suspension was in kindergarten, the year his parents divorced; both parents struggled with drug addiction, and his father was briefly incarcerated.

Read more by Elizabeth Chuck and Marshall Crook