Traumatized students need specially trained teaching

A trauma-informed school (TIS) recognizes that trauma has an impact on staff, students, families and the community. The Copper Country Intermediate School District Learning Center operates a Social Skills teaching program, a program for students with severe disabilities, a mild cognitively impaired program and the community transition program.

For the past 5 years, the Learning Center has been implementing trauma-informed practices. The center recognizes children exposed to violence and trauma may not feel safe or ready to learn. Traumatic experiences impact students, staff, and the community.

The center focuses on education and achievement while remaining mindful that mental health and wellness are vital to students’ success. The center works to build and maintain trust among staff, students and their families through support and collaboration with families and outside agencies.

The center’s programs provide social emotional learning to ensure students cultivate healthy behaviors by teaching students how to connect their actions to their thoughts and feelings.

According to the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, 26 percent of children in the United States will witness or experience a traumatic event before the age of 4. The CCISD follows policies from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, such as identifying and assessing traumatic stress, addressing and treating traumatic stress, teaching trauma education and awareness, having partnerships with students and families, integrating emergency management and crisis response, evaluating and revising school disciplinary policies and practices, and establishing community partnerships.

The CCISD’s Learning Center staff have received year-long training through Copper Country Community Mental Health (CCCMH) to teach staff to recognize and respond to students who have experienced trauma. The center staff also participated in a year-long training series through Michigan’s Integrated Behavior and Learning Support Initiative to implement positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS). The objectives of PBIS are to identify and define behavior expectations; teach, monitor, acknowledge and encourage expected behavior; correct behavioral errors; and use data for decision making.

The CCISD and Copper Country Community Mental Health staff collaborated to align the big ideas of PBIS and trauma-informed schools. The CCISD has employed a school social worker who is credentialed in trauma-focused interventions and has helped train staff in how to view the objectives of positive behavior interventions through a trauma-informed lens.

The Learning Center staff has also participated in training on resiliency and the biology of stress through an understanding of adverse childhood experiences.

The center’s staff is trained yearly in nonviolent crisis intervention. Strategies learned promote care, welfare, safety and security for all students and staff. It teaches staff to recognize precipitating factors as signs and symptoms of trauma. Staff are trained to respond with a trauma informed approach. Finally, staff are trained to resist re-traumatizing by reducing the likelihood of trigger situations. This is aligned with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.

The Copper Country ISD realize that students come to school who have faced trauma in their life. The CCISD staff will continue to receive training to understand what trauma looks like in the classroom and maintain consistent and stable relationships with students, families and the community. The Copper Country ISD will also continue to provide trainings to our local school districts to help them deal with related issues in their own districts.

George Stockero is superintendent of the Copper Country Intermediate School District.