More than ever before, schools and teachers are called upon to identify and respond to the unique challenges of childhood trauma. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) estimates that one out of every four students in U.S. schools has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect learning and/or behavior. In particular, children who experience the trauma of maltreatment often have difficulties inside and outside of the classroom. These challenges can negatively affect educational well-being and often persist over the long-term, creating unnecessary barriers to learning and independence. In addition, new legislation in many states across the U.S. has identified teachers as mandated reporters of suspected child maltreatment. Finally, there is momentum to integrate prevention programs in the school-setting as unique opportunities for universal primary prevention of maltreatment. Hence there are isolated efforts currently underway to weave trauma-informed approaches into the fabric of schools, including strategic planning by administrators, staff training, prevention programming, liaising with local youth service agencies, and trauma-sensitive intervention with affected students.
The purpose of this conference is to bring together key members of the research, educational, and child welfare communities in order to create an interagency and transdisciplinary dialog about how schools can more effectively move toward a coordinated, multifaceted trauma-informed framework. The first session will be devoted to child welfare legislations changes and school-based maltreatment prevention efforts. The second session will focus on the developmental impact of trauma and the socioemotional, behavioral, and cognitive issues that educators might face in the classroom. The third session will explore the multiple contexts and policies needed in order to improve educational efforts. The fourth session will cover mandated reporter trainings, as well as highlight how community providers, child advocates, and schools can work in coordination to support teachers and improve the educational experience for children who have been maltreated. The conference will culminate in a panel discussion focused on defining a framework for trauma-informed schools. The panel will be charged with identifying the next essential steps in research, training, and policy that will move the field forward in establishing formal recommendations for mechanisms that can be put in place to support administrators and teachers in promoting child well-being and creating enriched educational environments for students who have experienced trauma.