The primary goal of all schools are to support students in educational achievement. However, in order to reach this goal, students must feel safe, supported and ready to learn. When students have been exposed to trauma, or Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), they may not feel safe or ready to learn. Therefore, schools must acknowledge that social-emotional health and wellness are innately connected to a student’s success in the classroom, and to a thriving school environment.

Through the guidance of SAMHSA’s framework (2014), there are 4 key elements and 6 guiding principles that ground trauma-informed work.

Six Principals of Trauma-Informed Schools

Being trauma-informed is not about specific services or interventions, but rather an approach as to how we support and respond to those within the school community.

Six Key Principles (outer circle)

1. Safety

2. Trustworthiness and Transparency

3. Peer Support

4. Collaboration and Mutuality

5. Empowerment, Voice and Choice

6. Cultural, Historical and Gender Issues

Four Key Assumptions (inner circle)

1. Realizes the impact of trauma

2. Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma

3. Responds by integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices

4. Resists re-traumatization

Within a trauma-informed school, the adults in the school community are trained to realize the widespread impact of trauma, recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma, respond to students with a trauma-sensitive approach, and resist re-traumatization by reducing the likelihood of triggers. This approach is grounded in the principles of safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration, empowerment, voice and choice, and with understanding of current and historical issues related to culture and gender.

“Promoting trauma-sensitive school approaches has the greatest potential to positively impact all students, regardless of trauma history.”