Part 3: How Do We Create a Trauma-Sensitive School?
Creating trauma sensitive schools is about integrating a shared understanding of the impacts of trauma on student learning, behavior and relationships into our practice as educators. Creating a trauma-sensitive school involves engaging in an inquiry based process that is specific to each school’s unique circumstances, there is no one size fits all. This process based approach is grounded in inquiry, and engages all staff in reflecting, identify their urgent priorities, and grappling with how to solve them in a trauma-sensitive way. A school wide approach is essential as the prevalence of adverse experiences is high, we will never know all the students impacted by these experiences and actions that suit students impacted by traumatic experience are good for all students.
Key to a school’s success in this endeavor are two essential components: readiness to create a trauma-sensitive school and developing a shared understanding among all staff of the prevalence and impacts of traumatic experience. Staff in a trauma-sensitive school are continually learning together, deepening their understanding, reflecting on successes and challenges, and participating actively in building a safe and supportive school community for all adults and students.
Once a school has developed a shared understanding of the impacts of traumatic experience on student learning, it is time to address their readiness level. Readiness assessment is not about a binary selection of yes or no, but rather about analyzing the motivation/urgency and resources available/needed to become a trauma sensitive school. Readiness to engage in the Inquiry Based Process is critical to ascertain the level of motivation and resources available to undertake becoming Trauma Sensitive.
Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Vol. 2: Creating and Advocating for Trauma Sensitive Schools
The primary source for how to create a trauma-sensitive school is Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Vol. 2: Creating and Advocating for Trauma Sensitive Schools. This publication offers a guide to creating trauma-sensitive schools.
To read more about the benefits of creating trauma-sensitive schools, please see the research studies on TLPI’s Demonstration Schools Study:
Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI): Trauma-Sensitive Schools Descriptive Study (AIR)
This study describes how five demonstration schools in Massachusetts implemented the Inquiry Based Process (IBP) to create trauma-sensitive, safe and supportive learning environments. Read the report.
Evaluation: Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative’s (TLPI) Inquiry-Based Process: Year Three
By Boston University, Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. Study shows transformational benefits of a trauma-sensitive school culture.
Read the report.
To see what a trauma-sensitive school looks like in action, please view our videos:
This ten minute video highlights one elementary school’s journey to create a trauma-sensitive, safe and supportive school by using the process-based approach outlined in Helping Traumatized Children Learn, Vol. 2.
In the video, A School’s Journey Toward Trauma Sensitivity, we hear from the school’s leaders, teachers and other staff members who worked together to create significant changes in their school’s culture. Watch the video
We are thrilled to share with you this short video highlighting one middle/high school’s journey to create a trauma-sensitive, safe and supportive school. Highlighted in the video are the ways in which this school embraces parent engagement and student voice to help guide their efforts to create a vibrant learning community where all staff work together to create a school that embodies the values of safety, trusting relationships, connection, equity, belonging, and adaptability. Watch the video
In the next four sections, we offer other resources (blogs, videos, etc.) that can be used to support schools in their work to create safe and supportive schools.
Question 1: Why do we feel an urgency to become a trauma-sensitive school?
Question 2: How do we know we are ready to create a Trauma-Sensitive Action Plan?
Question 3: What actions will address staff priorities and help us become a Trauma-Sensitive School?
Question 4: How do we know we are becoming a Trauma-Sensitive School?