If Someone is Traumatized and No One Acts, Does Their Trauma Matter? The Need for Trauma Informed Leadership in Education
Submitted by Kathy_Tracey on April 11, 2017 - 8:37pm
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I would like to open a discussion about Trauma Informed Leadership and the ACE Study - and it's overall impact in education. I'd like to ask you to weigh in on the idea of trauma and what that means to you in your program.
Students may be exposed to traumatic experiences: abuse, dysfunction, social and systemic injustice, poverty, violence, and neglect. Educational institutions are at a tipping point with an estimated one half to two thirds of students experiencing trauma. The culmination of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, has an impact on both the immediate and future well being of the individual. Building on the implementation of evidence-based trauma informed practices in the medical and judicial systems, a paradigm shift about the development of school culture that is inclusive of the needs of all traumatized learners must be on the immediate horizon. Understanding students experiencing trauma are more likely to struggle academically and experience chronic health issues, how are schools prepared to meet the safety, social, emotional, and learning needs of these children? Furthermore, what is the responsibility of educational leaders to develop a school culture of trauma informed leadership? What happens when school leaders ignore the impact of ACES? Finally, are schools responsible for the emotional and mental wellness of the students?
The science on brain development is very clear; healthy brain development in children is essential for both educational and economic success throughout the lifespan. Results from the Adverse Childhood Experiences study found a “strong graded relationship between the breadth of exposure to abuse or household dysfunction during childhood and multiple risk factors for several of the leading causes of death in adults”.
Educators and policy makers are in a unique position to address ACEs by leading systemic changes through educational and community reform. The lack of hope, witness to violence, and systemic poverty are all elements of adverse childhood experiences. These experiences are lived in the classroom and educational leaders must create a culture responsive to these experiences.
With so many variables causing traumatic experiences, there is no one specific strategy that can lessen the impacts of ACEs. A potential solution requires a more strategic, ethical, and programmatic approach integrated holistically into educational institutions and school culture in order to be sensitive to the experiences of traumatized individuals with the primary goal of preventing re-traumatization by promoting awareness of triggers and avoiding both stigmatizing and punishment. “At the heart of these approaches is the belief that students’ actions are a direct result of their experiences, and when students about out or disengage, the question we should ask is not ‘what’s wrong with you, ‘but rather ‘what happened to you?’ By being sensitive to students’ past and current experiences with trauma, educators can break the circle of trauma, prevent re-traumatization, and engage a child in learning and finding success in school.” The paradigm shift at the organizational level in education is focused on the trauma a student experienced rather than focusing on the student's conduct. Trauma informed leadership is a critical component of education and a necessary response to the systemic causes of ACEs.
What does trauma informed leadership look like?
Is it the role / responsibilities of the educational program to address student trauma?