How Trauma-Informed Care in Schools Improves Culture & Climate

Jul 20 1PM
How Trauma-Informed Care in Schools Improves Culture & Climate

Although the effects of trauma are far reaching and many children experience traumatic life events; trauma is treatable. Trauma-informed care is a practice that promotes a culture of safety, empowerment, and healing. In trauma-informed care the connection between environment, triggers, and perceived dangers are recognized and addressed. There is little understanding of the lasting effects of childhood trauma. We know that trauma affects a child’s ability to participate in school, therefore trauma-informed care is necessary for educators to nurture the whole child and support their complete success.

→ Read about a Washington, D.C. public school supporting the whole child with their Restorative Practices program

Childhood Trauma in the United States

A large number of children in the United States are exposed to traumatic life events. Traumatic life events include sexual abuse, physical abuse, domestic violence, community and school violence, medical trauma, car accidents, acts of terrorism, war experiences, natural and human-made disasters, suicides, and other traumatic losses. Race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, and gender can increase the risk of exposure to trauma. Trauma affects children physically, mentally, behaviorally, and socially. In a school setting trauma can impact how students interact with teachers, classmates and, ultimately, how they learn.

Childhood trauma is very common and the statistics on abuse and violence in the United States are shocking. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente assessed the connection between childhood trauma, stress, and maltreatment and health and well-being later in life.

Traumatic Experience Statistics that Every School Should Know About:
  • Two-thirds of the study participants reported at least one adverse childhood experience, and more than one in five reported three or more such experiences.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape at some point in their lives — 12% of these women and 30% of these men were younger than 10 years old when they were raped.
  • Women were significantly more likely than men to report more traumatic experiences in childhood.
  • ACE scores were found to be highly correlated with serious emotional problems, health risk behaviors, social problems, adult disease and disability, mortality, high healthcare costs, and worker performance problems.

Higher ACE scores were also significantly correlated with liver disease, chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, heart disease, autoimmune disease, lung cancer, depression, attempted suicide, hallucinations, the use of antipsychotic medications, the abuse of substances, multiple sex partners, and increased likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence.

Most children and adolescents with traumatic exposure are not identified and consequently do not get treatment for their trauma. Even when students are identified, they frequently do not receive any services. This is especially true for children from ethnic or racial minorities and for recent immigrants and must be addressed to ensure educational success.

How Trauma-Informed Care Improves Culture and Climate In Classrooms and Schools

Trauma-informed care improves culture and climate in schools because it establishes a safe, supportive culture for all students by understanding what has happened to each student and how that affects their actions in school. Through trauma-informed care, schools can be thoughtful in the consequences students receive, avoid triggers and operate in ways that are considerate of the experiences that children bring with them to school everyday.

For children who experience trauma, school is often the one place that feels predictable and the goal of trauma-informed care in school is to make students feel safe. According to the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, trauma-sensitive schools have six core attributes:

  • Leadership and staff share an understanding of how trauma has an impact on learning and the need for a school-wide approach.
  • The school ensures all students feel safe—physically, socially, emotionally and academically.
  • The school addresses students’ needs in holistic ways, taking into account their relationships, ability to self-regulate, academic competence, and physical and emotional well-being.
  • The school explicitly connects students to the school community and provides multiple opportunities to practice newly developing skills.
  • The school embraces teamwork and staff share responsibility for all students.
  • Leadership and staff anticipate and adapt to the ever-changing needs of students.

Part of trauma-informed care is a restorative approach to school disciplinary systems combined with an emphasis on social-emotional learning, which allows them to develop skills such as self-awareness, self- management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. With proper socio-emotional skills, students are able to express empathy, communicate effectively and express their emotions appropriately. Through trauma-informed care schools can help cultivate social and behavioral growth that acknowledges the experiences that children bring with them daily, while holding them to the highest academic standards, and by supporting their emotional needs and helping students to feel supported.

Here at Kickboard we have seen many schools use trauma-informed teaching practices to address adverse experiences for children. By using our mobile app, web platform, and professional development services, we help schools ensure a supportive, positive school culture, especially successful for students who are enduring trauma outside their school lives. Kickboard helps teachers to track student behavior, identify cultural trends and implement systems to improve behavioral results.


Share this:

Guides and Webinars

Free Resources

Download guides, playbooks, case studies, and other great resources to help you transform school culture.

Learn More