Trauma-Informed Schools

What does it mean to be trauma-informed?

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) defines all trauma-informed child-and family -service systems as “one in which all parties involved recognize and respond to the impact of traumatic stress on those who have contact with the system including children, caregivers, staff, and service providers. Programs and agencies within such a system infuse and sustain trauma awareness, knowledge, and skills into their organizational cultures, practices, and policies. They act in collaboration with all those who are involved with the child, using the best available science, to maximize physical and psychological safety, facilitate the recovery or adjustment of the child and family, and support their ability to thrive.”

Trauma-informed approaches within any system aim to adhere to the “4Rs”:

  • Realizing the widespread impact of trauma and pathways to recovery.
  • Recognizing trauma signs and symptoms.
  • Responding by integrating knowledge about trauma into all facets of the system.
  • Resisting re-traumatization by decreasing unnecessary triggers (i.e., trauma and loss reminders) and by implementing trauma-informed policies, procedures, and practices.


The widespread impact of trauma and pathways to recovery


Trauma signs and symptoms


By integrating knowledge about trauma into all facets of the system


Re-traumatization of trauma-impacted individuals 

Key Principles of Trauma-Informed Practices

  • Safety
  • Trustworthiness and Transparency
  • Peer Support
  • Collaboration and Mutuality
  • Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
  • Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

Core Areas of a Trauma-Informed School

A trauma-informed school recognizes that trauma affects staff, students, families, communities, and systems. Organizational support, partnerships, and capacity-building are essential. Ten Core Areas for a trauma-informed school system include:

  1. Identifying and Assessing Traumatic Stress
  2. Addressing and Treating Traumatic Stress
  3. Trauma Education and Awareness
  4. Partnership with Students and Families
  5. Creating a Trauma-Informed Learning Environment (Social/Emotional Skills and Wellness)
  6. Cultural Responsiveness
  7. Emergency Management/Crisis Response
  8. Staff Self-Care and Secondary Traumatic Stress
  9. School Discipline Policies and Practices
  10. Cross System Collaboration and Community Partnerships*

*National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Schools Committee. (2017). Creating, supporting, and sustaining trauma-informed schools: A system framework. Los Angeles, CA, and Durham, NC: National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. For more in depth information see Creating, Supporting, and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Schools: A System Framework.

Project 180 in Georgia

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National Child Traumatic Stress Network Resources