Compassionate Schools From Coast to Coast

Unless you live in Massachusetts you likely don’t know of the very intentional steps that state has taken to increase capacity across a number of systems to support adult service providers implementing a “trauma informed” approach to education.  What exactly is a “trauma-informed” approach to education?

In Massachusetts, the term “trauma-informed” or “trauma-sensitive” means:

Trauma Sensitive Schools may have:

  • Comprehensive professional development for teachers and other staff
  • A team of school/district personnel to assess individual student cases
  • Expanded counseling services
  • Referrals to outside support services
  • Parent and family workshops on the effects of trauma
  • Conflict resolution training for both teachers and students
  • Consultation with local hospitals, mental health facilities, women’s shelters, and other community based organizations
  • School/district administrative support for establishing a trauma sensitive environment
  • Academic instruction techniques for teaching traumatized students
  • Development or revision of school policies to be more trauma sensitive

http://www.doe.mass.edu/tss/schools.html

In Washington State, a very similar approach has been undertaken which differs primarily in semantics. The Compassionate Schools Initiative has a number of resources available to educators which mirror (and even reference) those available in Massachusetts. To learn more about the WA State Compassionate Schools Initiative and resources, go to:

http://www.k12.wa.us/CompassionateSchools/HeartofLearning.aspx

To watch a video overview of the thinking behind this model in Washington State, go to:

http://www.k12.wa.us/CompassionateSchools/HeartofLearning.aspx

Clearly, the need for this approach is evident throughout the country as schools work to meet the increasingly complex needs experienced by children who have themselves experienced trauma, abuse and neglect. If you are an educator looking for high quality resources that will assist you in learning more about the Compassionate Schools Initiative or how to create “trauma-informed schools” – please consider the course that CE Credits Online has designed and offered for this very purpose for the past 2 years.

http://www.cecreditsonline.org/course/creating-compassionate-schools

To watch a brief video inviting others to consider what it might mean to create a compassionate school in their region, go to this link:

Many lawmakers are joining the efforts already underway through grassroots efforts. These techniques are regarded as the “missing piece” by some which makes real reform possible, such as is reflected in the following comment by Boston Teacher Union leader:

The bill also had the “wholehearted support” of the Boston Teachers Union according to Angela Cristiani, political director for the union and a school psychologist. She said the safe and supportive schools’ provisions that address prevention in schools provided the “missing piece” in the gun violence reduction legislation. Cristiani described Boston as an early adopter of the safe and supportive schools framework and said the law makes “real reform” possible statewide and provides a model for states across the nation. The new law, she says, will provide the tools for schools to support children to achieve their full potential and to act when a child is having difficulties. When tragedies occur, Cristiani says people often reflect back to the time a child was in school and trouble signs were present but not acted upon.

To get a better sense of what is occurring in Massachusetts – read the following information posted recently where Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has recently signed provisions into law that will ensure the emphasis on this is not a fleeting fad:

As you can see, though separated by thousands of miles, educators and service provides of all descriptions are working to help create safe, supportive learning conditions for our learners. Many now recognize that access to educational buildings without access to personalized learning conditions within those buildings will only thwart a child’s development process and ultimately their individual achievement levels. Perhaps more importantly, without specific kinds of approaches that are outlined in detail through a compassionate schools approach, the needs of many children can go unnoticed or leave children very few options but to suffer in silence, or to act out through violence, in order to get their needs met.

In what ways might this be an important “missing piece” amidst so many other educational reform efforts in your school community?

  • Steve Dahl, M.Ed

ACEs Too High

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today signed into law provisions to create conditions for “safe and supportive schools” intended to improve education outcomes for children statewide, and giving momentum to the state’s trauma-informed schools movement. They were included in The Reduction of Gun Violence bill (No. 4376). This groundbreaking advance was achieved when advocates seized the opportunity to add behavioral health in the schools to the options under consideration as state officials searched for ways to strengthen one of the nation’s more restrictive gun laws in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, CT.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo saw the connection between reducing gun violence and school achievement and was instrumental in the bill’s passage. When the original sponsor of a Safe and Support Schools Act, Katherine Clark, left the state legislature for the U.S. House of Representatives, some advocates were concerned the void…

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