What does it mean to be Trauma-Informed? (Part 1 of 2)

News & Events

What does it mean to be Trauma-Informed? (Part 1 of 2)

Alert Date: September 17, 2019

By: William J. Zee
Related Practice Areas: Education and K-12

Laws and policies pertaining to trauma-informed education are moving at a rapid pace in Pennsylvania and across the country. The Barley Snyder Education Practice Group will bring you up to speed on what your district needs to know about trauma-informed education in this two-part series on what it takes for a district to be trauma-informed, both legally and educationally.

With trauma-informed education now mandatory in Pennsylvania public schools, the state has devised a slew of requirements and recommendations to help schools implement their own trauma-informed program.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency recently provided resources and advice for implementing trauma-informed education in its Model Trauma-Informed Approach Plan. The commission administers school safety grants and supports the School Safety and Security Committee.

The Model Trauma-Informed Approach Plan provides local educational agencies with minimum criteria and elements that they can and should tailor to their unique needs when applying for grant funding and implementing trauma-informed education.

Some components of the model plan are required, others are recommended.

Legislatively Required Components

  • Designating an individual with certain qualifications to oversee implementation
  • Coordinating between students, their families, community-based organizations, local government resources and schools to provide services
  • Ensuring that those coordinated services are trauma-informed, which requires well-qualified and trained providers, culturally responsive practices, and a plan for addressing secondary trauma on school employees
  • Using evidence-based approaches – requiring multiple data sources and levels, and also identifying responses through a data-driven approach
  • Implementing professional development to foster a culture in which the entire school community is informed on how to understand, recognize and respond to trauma

Recommended Components

  • Using the already existing multi-tiered system of supports to implement trauma-informed education
  • Selecting a team to support the designated individual to oversee plan implementation
  • Conducting a readiness assessment to gauge the current state of the district’s policies, awareness and needs

The model plan is the most recent step in a series of responses to a 2018 Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force Report. The report found that a necessary component of improving school safety includes enhancing social and emotional instruction. That should be done by addressing the impact of trauma and improving coping skills and resilience. Beginning last year and before the legislative mandate requiring trauma-informed education that came about through the latest state budget process, districts were permitted to apply for funding specifically for trauma-informed programming and support services under two separate grants administered by the commission on crime.

Its model mirrors the ACEs, trauma-informed education, resiliency and restorative practices guidance Barley Snyder Education Practice Group attorneys have been presenting on since 2017. If you have any questions on tailoring the Model Trauma-Informed Approach Plan to your school’s unique needs, or on any other topic, please contact me or any member of the Barley Snyder Education Practice Group.

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