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Cultivate Well-Being and Resilience in Schools

Schools have the potential to be powerful allies in nurturing the well-being and resilience of young learners. However, this potential is often hampered by traditional, “one-size-fits-all” approaches that overlook the impact of trauma on students' lives and learning. A growing body of research and practice highlights the importance of trauma-informed policies and practices in creating learning environments where all students can thrive.


Transformative action demands embracing a whole-student, whole-school, and whole-community approach to create safe, welcoming, nurturing, and inclusive learning environments for K-12 learners. By prioritizing the mental and emotional health of all students and redefining what “academic success” means and looks like, we can pave the way for a future generation that is not only equipped with key knowledge to function in the world but also emotionally resilient and well-equipped to face life's challenges with insight and fortitude.

The call for a trauma-informed education system is not simply a trend; it is a fundamental shift in our understanding of how humans learn and grow. It is possible to transform schools into havens of healing, learning, and growth for all children, ensuring that they have the opportunity to thrive, the capacity to contribute positively to the world around them, and the compassionate supports and resources needed to realize their full potential. An investment in aligning learning environments and school systems with a trauma-informed approach is an investment in the future of our communities and our planet.​

This dimension of the vision calls for us to:

  • Increase the prevalence of mental and behavioral health supports in schools

    • Leverage connection points with in-school providers to assess for and identify trauma-impacted students and families and connect them to appropriate trauma-informed resources

    • Create and fund grants to pilot integrated school-based health centers 

    • Utilize funding to train and hire more school counselors, psychologists, and other school-based mental health professionals so that ratios of supporters to students is lower

  • Require all of the education workforce to get foundational education and regular ongoing training on trauma, NEAR science, a trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive approach, child development and attachment, and other allied topics demonstrated to be connected to improved student outcomes

    • Ensure those who interface directly with students are educated and trained on trauma-informed de-escalation, non-violent communication and conflict resolution techniques, compassionate approaches to mediation, positive behavior intervention and supports, and restorative practices

    • Include requirements to promote equity and belonging in the classroom, such as cultural humility, implicit bias, historical and cultural trauma, and other related topics

    • Train staff to consider a trauma-informed lens when acting in the capacity of mandated reporter

  • Create and fund grants that connect schools and community-based organizations to increase students' access to trauma-informed services and supports

  • Provide additional supports for students and families facing housing, dealing with food insecurity, or living in poverty

    • Utilize grants to provide students vulnerable to trauma inherent in such situations with direct academic supports, such as tutoring, additional transportation, nutrition supports, hygiene items, and access to out-of-school enrichment activities

    • Expand free breakfast/lunch programs, and end initiatives that collect “debt” from students who are not able to pay for school-provided meals

  • Create and fund accessible opportunities for students’ families, caregivers, and interested community members to learn about development and build skills to create healthy, supportive home and community environments

  • Fund exploring alternative models to school safety

    • Move away from increasing school resource officers and metal detectors  toward creating affirming, safe environments by hiring non-law enforcement entities, such as school safety coaches or safety teams, who can monitor the environment for safety and build positive school community relationships through a trauma-informed lens

  • Authorize the Department of Education to award competitive grants for establishing and supporting trauma-informed mentoring and peer support programs for trauma-impacted students

  • Adopt and enforce the Handle with Care law, ensuring that the workforce of all entities involved are trained on how to respond appropriately to students who have experienced trauma

  • Provide frequent opportunities for students and families to have a voice and give feedback in the development of policies, protocols, and practices in school systems

  • Fund the expansion of programs demonstrated to create a positive, supportive, and affirming school climate

    • Include extracurricular activities such as sports, music, nature-based, and art programming

    • Include programming and strategies to help students contribute positively to combat discrimination, bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment

  • Create standards for trauma-informed emergency response protocol

    • Ensure that students and personal with different abilities are provided equal access to safety during a disaster or emergency situation

    • Make trauma-specific supports available to all students and staff following a critical incident in the school or in the broader community

    • Include training on integrating psychological safety and trauma recovery into the plans, such as by providing content on psychological first aid

    • Decrease the frequency of lockdown drills, and ensure that ones that do happen integrate a trauma-informed approach, such as by including age-appropriate explanations of drills to students, notifying about their occurrence in advance particularly for students with trauma histories or mental health challenges, and other such measure to mitigate potential stress and harm

  • Integrate a trauma-informed approach into discipline decisions such as expulsion, suspension, or placing students in an alternative setting

    • Require school administrators to look more holistically at factors such as a student’s home environment, positive classroom and community contributions, history of ACEs or trauma, and other factors that have been demonstrated to have a direct and substantial relationship with student behaviors

  • Develop clear and restrictive national guidelines on seclusion and restraint, severely limiting the use of such practices to emergency situations where there is an immediate threat of harm to self or others, potentially banning such responses entirely in the longer term

    • Establish clear criteria for what practices may be used, when, and how to minimize discretion and potential for misuse

    • Encourage the use of trauma-informed de-escalation techniques, calming spaces, sensory supports, and positive communication strategies to address challenging behaviors without resorting to physical interventions

  • Prioritize resources for schools that actively promote accessibility, belonging, diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in their learning environments

  • Broaden curriculum to equip students with the capacity to self-regulate, make healthy choices for themselves, and other important life skills

    • This includes developmentally-appropriate, culturally-sensitive, inclusive, and trauma-informed education and skill-building on topics such as social-emotional learning, personal well-being, health and sexual safety, etc.

  • Increase supports provided to the education workforce

    • Require schools to provide training on and make meaningful efforts to address compassion fatigue, secondary traumatic stress, and burnout among staff and administrators

  • Engage the Interagency Task Force on Trauma-Informed Care to develop trauma-informed standards schools must meet as well as to provide technical assistance for implementation, monitoring, sustainment, and outcome evaluation, or create and fund a special national entity specifically to focus on trauma-informed change implementation in school settings that receive public funding

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