April 23, 2024 4 min read

Helping Your School Comply with Professional Development Policies for Trauma-Informed Practices




K12 EducationSafetySpecial Education

Millions of students across the country are living with trauma – something that can have a significant impact on many aspects of their lives, including their academics and their behavior in school. Consider these facts:

  • 34.8 million children ages 17 and younger – nearly half of the children in the country – have experienced childhood trauma. This can include experiencing a natural disaster, a car accident, a school shooting, community violence, the unexpected death of a loved one, domestic violence, physical or sexual abuse, or other such events. (National Institute for Children’s Health Quality)
  • Trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can impact a student’s behavior and their learning. Children with trauma can have trouble focusing and thinking things through. They may also act out for attention, even negative attention. Obstacles to learning experienced by children who are living with trauma include the following (Child Mind Institute):
    • Trouble forming relationships with teachers
    • Poor self-regulation
    • Negative thinking
    • Hypervigilance
    • Executive function challenges
  • Trauma-related behavior concerns such as those mentioned above can disrupt school routines and the processes related to teaching and learning not only for the child who experienced the trauma, but also for their peers. It can impact the classroom environment, the teachers, and the staff. (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)

Trauma-Informed Practices

To address what the National Education Association has called an “epidemic of trauma in schools,” it advocates for “transforming schools into ’trauma-informed’ or ‘trauma-sensitive’ environments, taking deliberate steps to become safe havens for every student and safe working environments for every educator.”

Professional development is considered a key component of creating a trauma-informed school system. In fact, the number of states with policies encouraging or requiring schools to provide trauma informed teaching professional development has more than tripled between 2017 and 2019, increasing from nine to 30.

State-specific Trauma-Informed Practices Legislation

Specific requirements vary greatly state-to-state. In North Dakota, for example, the state requires eight hours of training every two years on youth behavioral health, including trauma, suicide prevention, behavioral health symptoms, behavior prevention or mitigation techniques for administrators and ancillary staff. It also mentions suicide prevention and bullying.

Maryland requires all certificated school personnel who have regular direct contact with students to complete training by December 1st each year on youth suicide risk, student mental health, trauma, safety and other topics related to student social and emotional well-being. They must also be trained on how to identify professional resources to help students in crisis.

Pennsylvania requires school entities to provide school employees with at least one hour of training on trauma-informed approaches. Training should address recognition of the signs of trauma in students, best practices for schools and classrooms regarding trauma-informed approaches, and recognition of the signs of the impact of secondary trauma on school employees, along with information on related school policies and resources.

Texas has continuing education requirements for teachers, principals and counselors that include requiring instruction about how grief and trauma affect student learning.

Louisiana requires all public and approved nonpublic school teachers, school counselors, principals, and other school administrators for whom the training is considered beneficial by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to annually participate in at least one hour of in-service training on recognizing adverse childhood experiences and trauma-informed education.

Beginning in 2024-2025, Illinois will require training regarding the implementation of trauma-informed practices annually during in-service training and before the first student attendance day of each school year for teachers and educational support personnel.

In other states, trauma informed professional development is encouraged but not specifically required.

Benefits of Trauma-Informed Practices in Schools

The National Education Association notes that when schools are “trauma-informed,” it creates a culture that builds resilience for all students, where students:

  • Feel safe and confident in their ability to learn
  • Can differentiate between trauma-induced behavior and appropriate behavior
  • Connect with adults and peers in a positive manner

Schools play a critical role in supporting students who are living with the impact of childhood trauma and when teachers understand childhood trauma and how to support students who have experienced it, it helps them create a more productive learning environment for those students, and for the class as a whole.

How Vector Solutions Can Help Support Trauma-Informed Practices

Vector Solutions provides expert-authored online courses for both staff and students to help K-12 school districts address state and federal compliance requirements and provide effective and engaging learning experiences around important safety and wellness topics, including trauma.

Vector’s Inclusive Instruction & Interventions library of courses includes professional development courses on:

Vector’s Student Safety & Wellness library of courses for students in grades 6-12 include

  • What is Trauma?
  • Signs and Symptoms of Trauma
  • How We Respond to Trauma
  • Healing from Trauma

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