The Flexible Framework is an organizational tool that enables schools and districts—in collaboration with families, local community organizations, and outside providers—to maintain a whole school focus as they create trauma sensitive schools.
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Educators and administrators in a trauma-sensitive school do their best to adapt to challenges flexibly and proactively so that the equilibrium of the school is maintained despite inevitable shifts and changes.
Trauma-sensitive schools help all staff to feel like they are part of a strong and supportive professional community that shares responsibility for each and every child while working as a team to address the impact of trauma on learning.
In a trauma-sensitive school, the school explicitly connects students to the school community and provides multiple opportunities to for students to practice newly developing skills.
A trauma-sensitive school addresses students’ needs in holistic ways, taking into account their relationships, self-regulation, academic competence, and physical and emotional well-being. Within the school, there is recognition that these domains are inextricably linked and an understanding of the critical role they play in helping students succeed.
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The second common attribute of a trauma-sensitive school is that the school supports all students to feel safe-physically, socially, emotionally, and academically. A child’s traumatic response, and the associated difficulty in learning, are often rooted in real or perceived threats to his or her safety, undermining their fundamental sense of well-being. Because of this, it is important to ensure that students feel safe, not just in their classrooms but also on the playground, in the hallway, in the cafeteria, on the bus, in the gym, and on the walk to and from school.
The first attribute of a trauma-sensitive school is that leadership and staff share an understanding of trauma’s impacts on learning and the need for a school-wide approach. This awareness is the critical first step in creating a trauma-sensitive school. All staff—educators, administrators, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers, custodians, bus drivers, athletic coaches, advisors to extracurricular activities, and paraprofessionals—should understand that adverse experiences in the lives of children are exceedingly common and that the impact of these experiences on child development can play a major role in the learning, behavioral, and relationship difficulties faced by many students.
A trauma-sensitive school is one where all students feel safe, welcomed, and supported and where addressing trauma’s impact on learning on a school-wide basis is at the center of its educational mission. It is a place where an ongoing, inquiry-based process allows for teamwork, coordination, creativity, and sharing of responsibility for all students, and where continuous learning is for educators as well as students.