The brain and the body are wired for survival.

If the alarm center of the brain senses danger, the body gets ready for fight, flight or
freeze. When this happens, the learning part of the brain goes off-line. For students to
learn, they need to feel safe, both physically and emotionally.

No classroom is immune to the effects of trauma.

It is found in all socio-economic levels, geographic regions, races and ethnicities. More than half of all young people report exposure to violence or abuse. Many students walk into school with their brains in survival mode. These students may struggle with attention, hyperactivity, memory, impulse control, emotional regulation, zoning out or blank stares, learned helplessness, and are easily frustrated with a short fuse and a quick temper.

Students with at least two types of childhood trauma exposure (such as bullying and divorced parents … or an alcoholic parent and a depressed parent for example) are more than twice as likely to fail a grade … be suspended … have an attendance problem … or have behavioral problems.

A trauma-informed approach to education
can help all students learn and thrive.

Trauma-informed practices create calmer classrooms, decrease the number, duration
and intensity of disruptive student behaviors, increase teacher’s time on task, improve
student attendance, and academic achievement.

A trauma-informed school focuses on these steps

  • Ensure all school staff are trained in trauma, signs and symptoms and trauma informed school practices.
  • Create a sense of safety, both emotionally and physically (such as a safe space, like a “peace corner,” for students to safely emotionally regulate, when triggered).
  • Help students regulate th eir emotions before solving the issue at hand, use active listening techniques to ensure children’s feelings are validated and heard.
  • Build connected relationships with adults (healing happens through relationship!). Establish routines and predictability to reduce student anxiety and foster a greater sense of control and trust in their world.
  • Build social emotional and resiliency skills (integrate social emotional learning, especially focusing on emotional regulation, movement and mindfulness into the daily classroom experience).
  • Connect students in need with additional school-based services (basic needs, family services, behavioral health services, etc.).
  • Review discipline practices and policies to align with a trauma-informed approach (discipline is to teach, not to punish).
  • Recognize the impact of secondary and vicarious trauma on staff and support staff wellness to prevent compassion fatigue and burn out (tap in-tap out for teachers, faculty lounge as mindfulness space, book clubs, walking clubs, staff yoga before or after school, etc.).
Resilient Lehigh Valley

Resilient Lehigh Valley’s Trauma Informed School Video

highlighting Bethlehem Area School District and Lehigh University

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Trauma-informed practices create calmer classrooms, decrease the number, duration and intensity of disruptive student behaviors, increase teacher’s time on task, improve student attendance, and academic achievement.


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