The primary mission of schools is to support students in educational achievement. To reach this goal, children must feel safe, supported, and ready to learn. Children exposed to violence and trauma may not feel safe or ready to learn. Not only are individual children affected by traumatic experiences, but other students, the adults on campus, and the school community can be impacted by interacting or working with a child who has experienced trauma. Thus, as schools maintain their critical focus on education and achievement, they must also acknowledge that mental health and wellness are innately connected to students’ success in the classroom and to a thriving school environment.
Becoming trauma-informed should be an essential component of the overall mission of the education system. A trauma-informed school recognizes that trauma affects staff, students, families, communities, and systems. Thus organizational support, partnerships, and capacity-building are essential.
The following represent the Essential Elements for a Trauma-Informed School System:
Essential Elements of a Trauma-Informed School System
- Identifying and assessing traumatic stress.
- Addressing and treating traumatic stress.
- Teaching trauma education and awareness.
- Having partnerships with students and families.
- Creating a trauma-informed learning environment (social/emotional skills and wellness).
- Being culturally responsive.
- Integrating emergency management & crisis response.
- Understanding and addressing staff self-care and secondary traumatic stress.
- Evaluating and revising school discipline policies and practices.
- Collaborating across systems and establishing community partnerships.