5 Ways to Support Your School Community: Integrating Trauma Responsiveness Into Your MTSS Framework

As human beings, the most important factor for our survival has been supportive relationships.

– Patricia A. Jennings


1. Mental health counselor – FOR STAFF

Ideally, they’ve had training specifically on SEL and trauma-informed care with staff. The school leader periodically sends an email to all staff to remind them that they have access to the counselor to discuss anything they’d like. Everything is confidential, though the counselor checks in with the school leader about general trends and things to watch out for. 

In the example provided, this counselor was “on retainer” from the district.

2. It’s for ALL students, ALL the time

We used to think about trauma as just kids exhibiting outward behaviors. Now, it’s a lot more; it’s all kids. It isn’t just those who you think need the help. It’s important to have trauma-informed care baked into everything for all students. 

3. Make sure the response is not just about one support person – but across the system

It isn’t just about one person (i.e. the SEL specialist or a school counselor). Behavioral and mental health supports have to be across the whole system. Especially for Tier 1, making sure SEL is integrated into curricula and that supports are available to all students. For more intensive supports, like outside services, having dedicated staff who are specialized in trauma responsiveness may be beneficial.

Consider working with district leadership and accessing county or statewide resources to coordinate outside services for students and families.

Anticipate and mitigate issues arising from enlisting the support of outside providers and partners. For example, a common problem with outside providers is that they can be less insensitive to instructional needs.

4. Figuring out how various people fit into a coherent system to address trauma needs

Everyone’s role within a system is important, from teachers to front office staff to counselors. The school community and everyone’s role within it can sometimes be a puzzle, but it is crucial that the pieces fit together to support students. Everyone within the system should know their role and be responsible for filling that role.

Consider this example: A student has been triggered and is in distress, so their teacher takes them to the school social worker. In order to support the student, here are just some considerations:

  • Can the teacher get someone to cover their classroom?
  • Does the teacher have the training, skills, and mental models to pause class, identify what the student needs, and provide it?
  • Is there a social worker or other mental health professional at the school? Are they available and accessible?
  • How will the student have access to further supports, if necessary? Who is responsible for following up?

5. Build the knowledge base of ALL staff

Teachers need a baseline of knowledge about trauma and their teaching that includes both knowing WHAT is going on and HOW to respond.

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