Trauma & Resiliency

Why We Need Trauma-Sensitive Schools

Understanding Trauma

Helping Traumatized Children Learn: Volume 1

Supporting Students with Trauma

School Counselors: Supporting an Observer of Domestic Violence

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This resource includes:

1) Intervention Strategies

2) Children's responses to witnessing domestic violence.

These indicators may include:

• Guilt and shame over disclosures

• A sense of anxiety orfearforthe adult victim or themselves

• Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

• A sense of being responsible forthe family dysfunction

• Thoughts of suicide

• Aggressiveness as evidenced by rough play, acting out or bullying or the opposite behavior – passiveness

• A refusal to attend school as a way to protect the abused family member

• Low school performance or even overperformance in grades, sports and/ or any afterschool activities allowing them to avoid home

• Attempted suicide

• Tiredness atschool

• Poor personal hygiene

• Regression

• Self-abuse

• Substance abuse

• Psychosomaticcomplaints and/or often ill

• High-risk play and increased pain tolerance

3) Coping strategies

Educate to Prevent Child Abuse

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"According to the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute, 95% of child maltreatment is preventable thought education."

Learn about Washington State's Erin's Law here

Immigrant Aid

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As noted in the CIPC report, "An estimated one in four children in the United States (18 million) live in immigrant families, and an estimated 5.1 million children live in families where one or more of their parents are undocumented immigrants."

15 Actions to Support Undocumented Students

1. Inform students and their families of their rights.

2. Stress the importance of taking proactive steps to ensure the safety and well-being of children and entire communities.

3. Distribute Know Your Rights materials to students and communities about what to do if a raid occurs or an individual is detained.

4. Find out if there is a local immigration raid rapid response team. These teams usually consist of attorneys, media personnel and community leaders who may be able to provide support.

5. Partner with a pro bono attorney, legal aid organization or immigrant rights organization to schedule a know-your-rights workshop to inform students and families about their rights.

6. Provide a safe place for students to wait if a parent or sibling has been detained.

7. Provide counseling for students who have had a family member detained by ICE.

8. Maintain a list of resources, such as the names of social workers, pro bono attorneys and local immigration advocates and organizations you can share with your students and their families.

9. Identify someone at your school who can serve as the immigration resource advocate in your building.

10.Work with parents to develop a family immigration raid emergency plan.

11. Make your school an ICE-free zone/sanctuary school.

12. Work with your school board to pass a resolution affirming schools as welcoming places of learning for all students, distancing the schools from enforcement actions that separate families.

13. Issue statements condemning raids and calling for the immediate release of students.

14.Participate in National Educators Coming Out Day, held annually on Nov. 12, and “come out” in support of undocumented students.

15. Participate in National Institutions Coming Out Day, held annually on April 7.

The School's Role

Schools have been designated as “sensitive locations” by ICE and Customs and Border Protection, meaning school grounds are generally off limits to immigration enforcement agents unless they seek prior approval or there are “exigent circumstances necessitating immediate action.” If immigration agents request personal identifying information about students from you or your colleagues or request access to a classroom to speak to a student, you are well within your rights if you refuse to provide that information. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits schools from sharing private information with anyone without first informing parents and students of the request.


  • Help create a Family Preparedness Plan. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center has a template for this, found here, available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

  • Send home Know Your Rights information specific to preparing for and navigating an ICE raid at home or in public. Many school districts have ordered Know Your Rights “red cards,” available at, for parents to hand to agents.

  • Immigrant-serving organizations have also produced guides for migrant parents looking to protect child custody and financial assets in the case of their deportation Appleseed has an in-depth, attorney-reviewed manual on these topics, found here.

  • Additional Resource: U.S. Department of Education’s Resource Guide: Supporting Undocumented Youth

Addressing Race and Trauma in the Classroom

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What is racial trauma?

Traumatic events that occur as a result of witnessing or experiencing racism, discrimination, or structural prejudice (also known as institutional racism) can have a profound impact on the mental health of individuals exposed to these events. Racial trauma (also known as race-based traumatic stress) refers to the stressful impact or emotional pain of one’s experience with racism and discrimination.

Common traumatic stress reactions reflecting racial trauma include increased vigilance and suspicion, increased sensitivity to threat, sense of a foreshortened future, and more maladaptive responses to stress such as aggression or substance use. These traumatic stress reactions are worsened by the cumulative impact of exposure to multiple traumas. This is particularly important for youth in low-income urban communities where there is increased risk for community violence and victimization.

Why is this important to educators?

As students are exposed to the issue of racism through media, daily experience, and history, they need adult guidance to navigate all of the information and experiences. Students need avenues of discussion and information that are factual, compassionate, open, and safe. Youth’s resilience and resistance to systemic oppression can be increased by creating an environment that acknowledges the role of systemic racism inside and outside of school, and how that is perpetuated by intergenerational poverty, current community unrest, and intentional targeting of young people of color by those in power.

While all students can be susceptible to distress from direct experience or viewing coverage of traumatic events related to racism, students from racial minority groups may be more likely to experience distress from acts of violence and aggression against people of color. Repeated exposure to trauma-related media stories focusing on perceived racism can impact the student emotionally, psychologically, and even physically. Stories in the media may fail to acknowledge students’ history, communities, or shared narratives of resiliency.

What can educators do?

The full article describes each of these more in-depth.

  1. Learn about the impacts of history and systemic racism.

  2. Create and support safe and brave environments.

  3. Model and support honesty and authenticity.

  4. Honor the impacts of history and systemic racism.

  5. Encourage and empower students as leaders.

  6. Care for yourself.

Becoming a Trauma-Informed School

Transforming Trauma

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According to the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, trauma-sensitive schools have six core attributes:

• Shared understanding among all staff; a whole-school approach to trauma sensitivity

• Safety for all children – physical, social/emotional and academic

• In addressing students’ needs, consideration of their relationships, self-regulation, academic competence and physical and emotional well-being

• Connection of students to the school community and opportunities to practice new skills

• Embraced teamwork and shared staff responsibility for all students

• Leaders’ and staff members’ anticipation of and adaptation to students’ ever-changing needs

Creating and Advocating for Trauma-Sensitive Schools

Childhood Trauma Toolkit for Educators

Self-Care for Educators

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"It can be difficult for educators, who are so often over-tasked and under-resourced, to prioritize self-care. But doing so is incredibly important and beneficial, both for educators and their students, especially when it comes to supporting students affected by trauma. Teaching is emotional labor, so here are some ways for trauma-informed educators to cope, care for themselves, and prevent burnout."

For more information on compassion fatigue, the need for self-care, and self-care activities, you can visit the "Self-Care" section under Educators.