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This post was published by MAC’s Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, a collaboration with Harvard Law School whose mission is to ensure that children impacted by family violence and other adverse childhood experiences succeed in school. Click here to see the original post.

Whole School Approach: The Importance of Community

As we start off this New Year, we are excited to share a new video with you. Over the course of several months last year, we shared blogs that included a series of videos that schools can use for training and professional development.  This month’s blog features a video of TLPI Training Director, Joel M. Ristuccia, Ed.M., addressing the need for a whole-school approach to trauma-sensitivity and the importance of building community for all students.

Please watch the video here:

The video highlights important points about the need for a whole school approach to trauma-sensitivity:

Schools are important communities for students

The nature of trauma is that it can cause feelings of disconnection from the school community that undermine students’ success. Given that young people spend much of their first 17 years in a school environment, schools are one of the most important communities for students. New research documents the critical role that school culture plays in supporting academic success. Academic outcomes, social and emotional competencies and critical thinking skills are all enhanced when students have access to school environments where they feel safe and enjoy a sense of belonging and connectedness.

Strong community support can reduce the severity of trauma  

When schools provide a welcoming and supportive community, students can be helped to overcome feelings of disconnection and can be supported to build skills that help them to be successful at school and in life.

No one teacher can do it alone

Addressing trauma’s impact at school requires that adults share responsibility for all children. No one teacher can do it alone and expecting individual educators to address trauma’s challenges alone  on a case-by case basis, or reinvent the wheel every time a new adversity presents can be overwhelming. In a trauma-sensitive school, all adults feel part of a strong supportive professional community that works as a team to address the impacts of trauma on learning.

Students must feel safe and connected to adults everywhere in the building

This requires the teamwork of everyone in the school. Students need to feel safe and connected to adults and peers everywhere in the school—in the classroom, the cafeteria, the hallway, the special activities, the bus—not just in one program or with one teacher.

It is important to remember that we will never know all the children who have been affected by traumatic events. The best approach is to create a school-wide environment where all children, including those who have been traumatized, can be successful. To read more about creating trauma-sensitive schools and a whole school approach, please read Helping Traumatized Children Learn Vol. 2, Creating and Advocating for Trauma-Sensitive Schools.