Should All Schools Be Trauma-Informed?

May 22, 2015
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

Soon, all public schools in the US may be required to integrate trauma-informed practices.

It’s a new class-action lawsuit that might make that happen, filed on behalf of five students and three teachers in the Compton Unified School District in Compton, CA.
At least two of the suit’s student-plaintiffs have spent time in foster care as a result of explosive events at home, and “all of the students who are part of the suit talk about how they would like teachers to ‘hear’ them,” reports the Aces Too High blog.
What’s this all about?
Research shows that nearly half of kids in the US experience trauma. For any child, trauma could be abuse, it could be living in poverty, it could be witnessing a shooting, having a parent who abuses alcohol or other drugs, having a parent who died—any devastating experience that leaves them feeling like they’ve lost control.
With those traumatic events—especially when there’s more than one—comes a range of long-term effects that send a kid’s nervous system into hyper-alert. Particularly when a child sees or hears or senses something that reminds them of what they’ve been through, they deal with any number of physical reactions—like pounding hearts, stomachaches, headaches, and body aches.
And with that physical onslaught often come emotional withdrawal, difficulty concentrating, coping, and feeling trust—and anxious, disruptive, and maladaptive behaviors.
Additionally, according to the landmark ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, the more trauma someone experiences as a child, the more likely their health will suffer later in life.
Because the effects on brain, body, and behavior don’t stop unless the toxic stress stops and support begins, more and more schools, professionals, and organizations are recognizing how important it is for staff to be trauma sensitive. The point of the Compton suit is to extend that awareness and sensitivity to every school and every student.
So what can we do right NOW?
To keep kids on the education track, all staff in a school community need to help create a school-wide trauma-sensitive environment where students feel safe and calm. This includes understanding the effects of trauma and learning how to help kids de-escalate when they’re upset. Providing emotional, social, and behavioral support also helps kids build resilience and focus on academics.
For ideas, check out the infographic below from the National Council for Behavioral Health, and be sure to give CPI a call if you need training, support, and strategies for helping kids with trauma cope and succeed.
Plus, if you’re a CPI Certified Instructor who will be at the Instructors’ Conference in July, you can attend a variety of sessions that address trauma and resilience, including:

  • Resilience: Building Your Change Muscles
  • Strength and Ability in the Face of Crisis
  • Understanding Crisis Development from Biological and Psychological Perspectives
  • Resilience in the Classroom: What Educators Should Know
  • Trauma-Informed Care Considerations for Schools

What practices do you use to help kids who carry the weight of trauma?

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