Trauma-Informed Schools: The Role of K-12 Schools in Responding to Trauma
We were honored to have three experts in the field join us:
- Marleen Wong, Ph.D., LCSW, Senior Vice Dean, Field Education, Stein/Goldberg Sachs Endowed Professor of Mental Health, Executive Director, Telehealth Clinic, and Clinical Advisor, Family Nurse Practitioner Program at Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at University of Southern California
- Pamela Vona, MA, Project Specialist, USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and Program Manager, Treatment and Services Adaptation Center for Trauma in Schools
- Janet Pozmantier, M.S., LPC, LMFT, RPT, Director, Center for School Behavioral Health at Mental Health America of Greater Houston
Below we share highlights of the webinar. If you missed it, a recording is available here.
Understanding the Impact of Childhood Trauma
Dr. Wong joined us just before her flight to northern California, where she was traveling to address trauma in fire-affected communities.
Dr. Wong started the webinar with a powerful statement: Trauma is the #1 public health issue of our time, and in many respects, it is also the civil rights issue of our time.
She described her research on high levels of trauma among children in Los Angeles, helping to frame the definition of childhood trauma and what practices make up trauma-informed schools.
She ended as powerfully as she began, charging the audience with bringing change to the way schools and educators respond to behaviors exhibited by children affected by trauma.
Assessing Trauma Responsiveness in Your School or District
Ms. Vona shared guidance for those looking to implement trauma-informed practices in their schools. She said that with many policy directives calling on schools to become trauma-informed schools, there wasn’t practical guidance for helping schools translate that call into concrete programming.
After extensive research and discussion with national experts, her team created a new accessible and user-friendly online tool called the Trauma Responsive School Implementation Assessment (pictured below). The tool gauges a school’s current level of trauma responsiveness and offers tailored and actionable recommendations for enhancing responsiveness.
This assessment is available on the School Health Assessment and Performance Evaluation (SHAPE) System, a free web portal that helps school mental health teams evaluate and measure their mental health services.
Community Partnerships After a Natural Disaster
Ms. Pozmantier knows first-hand about responding to trauma, speaking about her experience rolling out trauma resources in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. The greater Houston area comprises 54 school districts and over one million students, many of whom lost their homes or were affected by flooding.
In response, Mental Health America of Greater Houston (MHA) acted quickly to respond to trauma in the community. Through a partnership with UNICEF and the mayor’s office, MHA reached out to schools hardest hit and trained facilitators to teach about trauma in the classroom.
MHA also partnered with us at Kognito to roll out our At-Risk online mental health training suite to 26 of Houston’s hardest-hit school districts. At-Risk builds awareness, knowledge, and skills about mental health, and prepares users to lead real-life conversations with students, parents, and caregivers about their concerns and available support. At-Risk is available for high school, middle school, and elementary school educators.
Takeaways for Trauma-Informed Schools
The session wrapped up with a Q&A from audience members.
Our audience wanted to know the best way to approach school administrators and policymakers about the need for trauma-informed practices. ‚ÄúIf we can convince leadership that if they become a trauma-informed campus, they will see less disruptive behavior, they‚ all see better attendance, and they‚ all see greater academic success, said Ms. Pozmantier.
Ms. Vona had another takeaway for school leaders interested in implementing trauma-informed practices: We didn’t want schools to feel like [they are] recreating the wheel…there’s probably a number of things that you are already doing that are trauma-informed, but you may not be doing it yet with a lens that is trauma-informed.
Wherever you are in the process of becoming a trauma-informed school or district, we hope you enjoyed the information in this webinar. Thank you to our wonderful speakers who shared their work and expertise with us, and thank you to the hundreds of registrants who joined and submitted questions.