Responding to Trauma in K-12 Schools

Research suggests that the majority of children in classrooms across America have experienced at least one traumatic event. The term trauma is used to describe an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on daily functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. (SAMHSA, 2014)

  • In community samples, more than two thirds of children in the U.S. report experience a traumatic event by age 16. 
  • One out of every four children in school has been exposed to a traumatic event. 
  • Approximately two out of three children has been exposed to violence. 50% who were victimized reported more than one type of victimization. 
  • 1 in 6 report 6 or more exposures to violence.

Students who experience trauma often have difficulty paying attention and learning, trouble building relationships with teachers and peers, spend more time out of class, are at increased risk of failing, have lower test scores, are more likely to be suspended or expelled and have higher rates of referral to special education. Particularly vulnerable groups, such as youth who are refugees/immigrants, speak english as a second language, come from high poverty and low- SES backgrounds, have a disability are at increased risk of of being adversly affected by trauma. Teachers, staff, and others who work with students may have their own trauma, compassion fatigue, or vicarious trauma. As a result, more and more schools and districts are incorporporating trauma-sensitive practices and policies to help students succeed.

Below are just a selection of resources available:


  • Trauma-Sensitive Schools: Disccusses the key components of trauma-sensitive schools, the process for adopting a trauma-sensitive approach, trauma-informed practices that can be integrated school-wide, and a new online trauma resource to support grantee efforts in this area. The speakers provided practical guidance, examples, and resources that can be applied regardless of their current stage in integrating trauma informed practice. Access the archived webinar here:

  • Integrating Trauma-Sensitive Practices in Schools: Introduces research to support the value in schools addressing trauma, explores ways schools can integrate trauma into their existing systems, and defines guiding principals and six core domains of trauma-sensitive practices.  Access the archived webinar here:

  • Trauma-Informed Practices in School Discipline: Provides the knowledge that school, district, and court staff, law enforcement and legal personnel, youth, families, and other community stakeholders need to better understand the impact of exposure to trauma on youth behavior, how some discipline responses can traumatize or re-traumatize youth, and trauma-informed alternatives. In addition, the behavioral impact of trauma on youth with disabilities is explained. By better understanding the impact of trauma, and the inter-relationship of trauma and disability, schools can use discipline practices that support students, foster their success, and keep them out of the justice system. Access the archived webinar here:

Trauma-Sensitive Schools Online Learning Modules 

Coming Soon!  Will include a combination of resources and materials to support schools in educating their staff about trauma and its impact and incorporate trauma-sensitive practices.  In particular, it will include two online lerning modules and an interactive PDF.

Other Resources

Using the NCSSLE advanced search function, you can use the filters to see a variety of resources on trauma:

  • Age groups (e.g. elementary school, college students)

  • Types of trauma (e.g. trauma caused by natural disaster, historical, domestic violence, sexual assault)

  • Role in helping youth (e.g. teacher, parent, community member, bystander, other school staff such as school resource officers)

  • Self-care (e.g. experiencing secondary trauma/compassion fatigue or vicarious trauma)

  • Cultural and linguistic competence (e.g. Trauma experienced because of actual and percieved identity factors such as race, ability, sexuality/gender identities)