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Trauma-informed schools

Health Factors: Education
Decision Makers: Educators Local Government State Government
Evidence Rating: Some Evidence
Population Reach: 10-19% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: Likely to decrease disparities

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Description

Trauma-informed schools include trauma-informed strategies and education for all students (tier 1), supplemental supports for some students (tier 2), and intensive interventions for students who suffer from trauma exposure (tier 3). These multi-component interventions typically include revisions to disciplinary policies; social-emotional instruction; school-wide culturally appropriate education about trauma; parent/caregiver education and engagement; data monitoring and routine screening; and individualized intensive support (e.g., cognitive behavior therapy or wrap around services) for students who exhibit symptoms of trauma. Trauma-informed schools often develop community partnerships to support these efforts and collaborate across child services to coordinate care (Phifer 2016, McInerney 2014, WI DPI-TSS). The 2015 National Survey of Children Exposed to Violence indicates that nearly 60% of children have been exposed to trauma in the past year; more than 1 in 10 children reported 5 or more exposures (OJJDP-Exposure to violence 2015).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes

Increased understanding of trauma
Increased use of trauma-informed practices
Increased resilience
Improved social emotional skills
Improved student attendance
Improved youth behavior
Increased graduation rates

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that trauma-informed school-wide interventions increase understanding of trauma and use of trauma-informed practices among school staff and teachers (Dorado 2016, Perry 2016, Shamblin 2016). Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects, especially on student outcomes.

Trauma-informed school-wide interventions may increase student resilience (Shamblin 2016), coping skills (Perry 2016), ability to pay attention (Holmes 2015), and attendance (Dorado 2016). Such interventions are also associated with increased graduation rates (Mathematica-Verbitsky-Savitz 2016), improved classroom behavior, and improved emotional and physical safety for students in urban, suburban, and rural areas (Walkley 2013, Phifer 2016). Trauma-informed school-wide programs may also enhance bullying prevention efforts, and address the social-emotional and mental health needs of vulnerable students (Blitz 2015). Over the long term, trauma-informed interventions are associated with decreased office discipline referrals, physical aggression incidents, and out-of-school suspensions (Mathematica-Verbitsky-Savitz 2016, Dorado 2016).

School-based social and emotional instruction, common in trauma-informed schools, increases academic achievement (Weare 2011) and prosocial behavior, and improves mental health outcomes (Durlak 2011). School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SWPBIS), another common component, improves students’ behavior (Bradshaw 2012, Flannery 2014), and individual and group cognitive behavior therapy has been shown to decrease symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression (Leenarts 2013, Wethington 2008).

Researchers suggest that schools provide information and training to all levels of staff to help them recognize behaviors that may be reactions to trauma, as well as how to assist and refer students to support services (Wiest-Stevenson 2016). Schools characterized by strong relationships between school staff and mental health professionals (Crosby 2015) and a clear commitment to changing the school climate and culture through trauma-informed approaches (Wiest-Stevenson 2016) appear to have greater effects than schools that do not.

Trauma-informed schools may reduce disparities in educational outcomes between low income, minority and higher income students. Trauma-informed practices should be culturally sensitive and introduced carefully to build teacher investment and avoid defensive reactions to the suggested changes (Blitz 2016). 

Implementation

United States

States can establish systematic frameworks to support trauma-informed schools, as in the Washington State Compassionate Schools Initiative and Massachusetts’ Flexible Framework Helping Traumatized Students Learn. In 2004, the Massachusetts state legislature also established a grant program for schools that implement trauma-informed practices (WA OSPI-Heart of learning 2009, MAC-TLPI). Several state departments of education include resources to address trauma, for example, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts (IL SBE-Trauma, WI DPI-TSS, MA DOE-TSS).

At the school district level, information about trauma can be incorporated into mental health training for school staff. In Idaho, for example, 75% of school districts have attended Idaho State University’s mental health training program that includes trauma education since the program began in 2000 (ISU-BTBT). The Menominee Indian School District has adopted trauma-informed schools and trauma-informed care practices throughout the community (MISD-TIC).

School preparation programs can also use comprehensive trauma-informed practices, for example, Trauma Smart is used in Head Start preschool programs in 26 counties across Missouri (Trauma Smart).

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction provides resources for trauma-informed schools and trauma-informed practices (WI DPI-TSS). 

Implementation Resources

ACEsCN-TIC Toolkits - ACEs Connection Network (ACEs CN). Trauma-informed care (TIC) toolkits: Education resources. Accessed on March 17, 2017
AIR-SSL SCI resources - American Institutes for Research (AIR). Safe supportive learning (SSL): School climate improvement (SCI) resource package. Accessed on October 5, 2016
AIR-TIC - American Institutes for Research (AIR). Trauma-informed care (TIC). Accessed on October 18, 2016
CPI-TIC resources - Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). The top 10 recommended trauma-informed care (TIC) online resources. Accessed on October 18, 2016
TSAC-TIS - Treatment and Services Adaptation Center (TSAC), National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). What is a trauma-informed school (TIS)? Accessed on October 18, 2016
WA OSPI-Heart of learning 2009 - State of Washington, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (WA OSPI). The heart of learning: Compassion, resiliency, and academic success. 2009. Accessed on October 18, 2016
WI DPI-Resources for schools - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WI DPI). Resources for schools to help students affected by trauma learn. Accessed on October 18, 2016

Citations - Description

McInerney 2014 - McInerney M, McKlindon A. Unlocking the door to learning: Trauma-informed classrooms & transformational schools. Education Law Center. 2014. Accessed on October 18, 2016
OJJDP-Exposure to violence 2015 - Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Children's exposure to violence, crime, and abuse: An update. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. 2015. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Phifer 2016* - Phifer LW, Hull R. Helping students heal: Observations of trauma-informed practices in the schools. School Mental Health. 2016;8(1):201-205. Accessed on October 18, 2016
WI DPI-TSS - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WI DPI). Mental health and trauma: Creating trauma-sensitive schools (TSS) to improve learning. Accessed on October 18, 2016

Citations - Evidence

Blitz 2015 - Blitz LV, Lee Y. Trauma-informed methods to enhance school-based bullying prevention initiatives: An emerging model. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. 2015;24(1):20-40. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Blitz 2016* - Blitz LV, Anderson EM, Saastamoinen M. Assessing perceptions of culture and trauma in an elementary school: Informing a model for culturally responsive trauma-informed schools. The Urban Review. 2016;48(4):520-542. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Bradshaw 2012 - Bradshaw CP, Waasdorp TE, Leaf PJ. Effects of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports on child behavior problems. Pediatrics. 2012;130(5):e1136–e1145. Accessed on February 1, 2016
Crosby 2015* - Crosby SD. An ecological perspective on emerging trauma-informed teaching practices. Children & Schools. 2015;37(4):223-230. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Dorado 2016* - Dorado JS, Martinez M, McArthur LE, Leibovitz T. Healthy Environments and Response to Trauma in Schools (HEARTS): A whole-school, multi-level, prevention and intervention program for creating trauma-informed, safe and supportive schools. School Mental Health. 2016;8(1):163-176. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Durlak 2011 - Durlak JA, Weissberg RP, Dymnicki AB, Taylor RD, Schellinger KB. The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development. 2011;82(1):405–32. Accessed on January 28, 2016
Flannery 2014* - Flannery KB, Fenning P, Kato MM, McIntosh K. Effects of school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports and fidelity of implementation on problem behavior in high schools. School Psychology Quarterly. 2014;29(2):111–24. Accessed on January 28, 2016
Holmes 2015 - Holmes C, Levy M, Smith A, Pinne S, Neese P. A model for creating a supportive trauma-informed culture for children in preschool settings. Journal of Child and Family Studies. 2015;24(6):1650-1659. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Leenarts 2013* - Leenarts LEW, Diehle J, Doreleijers TAH, Jansma EP, Lindauer RJL. Evidence-based treatments for children with trauma-related psychopathology as a result of childhood maltreatment: a systematic review. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2013;22(5):269-283. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Mathematica-Verbitsky-Savitz 2016 - Verbitsky-Savitz N, Hargreaves MB, Penoyer S, et al. Preventing and Mitigating the Effect of ACEs by Building Community Capacity and Resilience: APPI Cross-Site Evaluation Findings. Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research; 2016. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Perry 2016* - Perry DL, Daniels ML. Implementing trauma-informed practices in the school setting: A pilot study. School Mental Health. 2016;8(1):177-188. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Phifer 2016* - Phifer LW, Hull R. Helping students heal: Observations of trauma-informed practices in the schools. School Mental Health. 2016;8(1):201-205. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Shamblin 2016* - Shamblin S, Graham D, Bianco JA. Creating trauma-informed schools for rural Appalachia: The Partnerships Program for enhancing resiliency, confidence and workforce development in early childhood education. School Mental Health. 2016;8(1):189-200. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Walkley 2013* - Walkley M, Cox TL. Building trauma-informed schools and communities. Children & Schools. 2013;35(2):123-126. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Weare 2011 - Weare K, Nind M. Mental health promotion and problem prevention in schools: What does the evidence say? Health Promotion International. 2011;26(Suppl 1):i29–69. Accessed on January 28, 2016
Wethington 2008* - Wethington HR, Hahn RA, Fuqua-Whitley DS, et al. The effectiveness of interventions to reduce psychological harm from traumatic events among children and adolescents: A systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2008;35(3):287-313. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Wiest-Stevenson 2016* - Wiest-Stevenson C, Lee C. Trauma-informed schools. Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work. 2016;13(5):498-503. Accessed on October 18, 2016

Citations - Implementation

IL SBE-Trauma - Illinois State Board of Education (IL SBE). Comprehensive system of learning supports: Childhood trauma resources. Accessed on October 19, 2016
ISU-BTBT - Idaho State University (ISU). Better Todays. Better Tomorrows (BTBT) for children’s mental health.

Accessed on October 19, 2016
MA DOE-TSS - Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (MA DOE). Trauma-sensitive schools (TSS). Accessed on October 19, 2016
MAC-TLPI - Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC), Harvard Law School. Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI). Accessed on October 18, 2016
MISD-TIC - Menominee Indian School District (MISD). Menominee is fostering futures: Trauma-informed care (TIC) education. Accessed on October 18, 2016
Trauma Smart - Trauma Smart. Trauma Smart: A program of Crittenton Children's Center. Accessed on October 18, 2016
WA OSPI-Heart of learning 2009 - State of Washington, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (WA OSPI). The heart of learning: Compassion, resiliency, and academic success. 2009. Accessed on October 18, 2016
WI DPI-TSS - Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WI DPI). Mental health and trauma: Creating trauma-sensitive schools (TSS) to improve learning. Accessed on October 18, 2016

Page Last Updated

October 19, 2016

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