Model Trauma-Informed Education Policy Addresses Student Needs

News & Events

Model Trauma-Informed Education Policy Addresses Student Needs

Alert Date: June 26, 2020

Partner William J. Zee and attorney Kalani Linnell recently collaborated with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association on developing the organization’s new policy concerning the trauma-informed approach to education.

The project continues a long-term firm commitment to incorporating the trauma-informed movement of education, a method that now includes incentives for Pennsylvania public school districts, into daily school operations.

The new model policy on the trauma-informed approach to education came after Pennsylvania’s 2019 legislation incentivized school districts to implement trauma-informed education methods.

As explained in a previous two-part alert, trauma-informed practices recognize how adverse childhood experiences may affect student learning and behavior. Many states, including Pennsylvania, have established legislation requiring school districts to plan for and implement a trauma-informed approach to education to receive access to certain funding sources.

While adopting a trauma-informed approach policy is recommended, districts are not required to adopt this type of policy unless having a policy on trauma-informed approaches is necessary for accessing grant funding. Training for school board directors and school employees is, however, required in Pennsylvania.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause stress and disruption to education, the need for trauma-informed approaches to education has become more apparent. Zee and attorney David Walker incorporated best practices related to COVID-19 into their recent national presentation on fostering student resilience and mental health.

“Trauma-informed education is now a staple of education across the country,” Zee, the chair of the Barley Snyder Education Practice Group, said. “As the federal government and state governments only strengthen their commitment to trauma-informed, school districts will be required to dedicate more time and resources to it. The sooner districts establish a systematic approach to enhance their own approach to trauma-informed education, the more prepared they will be to respond to the government’s expanding dedication to it.”

According to the PSBA in a recent publication, the COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for districts to develop a strong understanding of trauma-informed education.

“The current pandemic and recent events surrounding racism and civil unrest have created the need for more awareness surrounding trauma and the importance of behavioral health support and social-emotional learning for students,” according to the PSBA’s latest Policy News Network+, its newsletter to make members aware of policy changes.

The PSBA policy that Zee and Linnell helped craft also highlights the organization’s own trauma-informed training for Pennsylvania’s 4,500 school directors. In late 2019 and early 2020, Zee participated in a barnstorming tour of sorts with the PSBA as one of its featured speakers at in-person trauma-informed training sessions throughout the state.

In addition to his work with the PSBA and his presentations on trauma-informed approaches to education, Zee, as well as other members of the Barley Snyder Education Practice Group, have infused trauma-informed approaches into professional development and training programs on school safety, compliance obligations, student services and special education, and other legal topics relevant to the education industry. Clients include school districts, community organizations, private schools, intermediate units and member organizations like the National School Board Association, and the work has drawn statewide and national accolades.

If you have a question about trauma-informed training sessions or how the attorneys at the Barley Snyder Education Practice Group can help your district implement a trauma-informed approach policy, please contact either William Zee or any member of the Barley Snyder Education Practice Group. 

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