Transforming School Climate Through Trauma Informed Practices

Event Type: 
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 - 3:00pm to 4:30pm

In July 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the creation of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. The collaboration is aimed at targeting school disciplinary policies and practices that push youth out of school and many times into the justice system, also known as the school-to-prison pipeline. The importance of continued commitment to reforming our Nation’s school discipline practices was most recently underscored in The White House’s January 2013 plan to protect children and communities and its call to identify and share best practices on school discipline policies and equitable implementation.[1]

To increase awareness and understanding of the issues around school discipline and provide practical examples of policies and practices that maintain school and classroom safety while ensuring academic engagement and success for all students, we are pleased to announce the Supportive School Discipline (SSD) Webinar Series. Webinars in the series are open to anyone and will explore numerous topics, including current school discipline philosophies, policies, and practices, and emerging alternatives; addressing truancy and absenteeism; infusing restorative justice principles; the role of school resource officers (SROs) in supportive school discipline; the promise of trauma-informed practices; the importance of youth, family, and community engagement; and the need for professional development across all stakeholders.

This seventh Webinar in the series provided 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 will be 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.

The Webinar featured Dr. Joan Gillece, Ph.D., Project Director for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) National Center for Trauma-Informed Care, who explored the prevalence of exposure to trauma in school-aged children and youth, explained how some school discipline practices can result in trauma for some students, and discussed the importance of trauma-informed practices in schools. She was joined by Ms. Barbara Trader, MS, Executive Director of TASH. Ms. Trader described the prevalence of the use of restraint and seclusion practices on students with disabilities, the reasons for why these practices are not effective, and suggested steps and strategies for implementing evidence-based, trauma-informed practices. The Webinar also featured the first-hand experiences of the young people of the documentary film, Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories (view the film), in which the youth describe their encounters with harsh school discipline practices and the trauma they experienced.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: As a result of participating in this session, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the prevalence of exposure to trauma in school-age children and youth and its impact, with focus on youth with disabilities
  • Examine how some current school discipline practices can traumatize and re-traumatize students
  • Identify various trauma-informed school discipline and related strategies and policies and their impact on student behavior, staff morale, and school safety and climate.

AUDIENCE: This Webinar is appropriate for school district superintendents and allied staff, teachers, and support staff, school climate teams, student support personnel, school resource and security officers, probation/parole officers, law enforcement, judges and court administrators, legal personnel, youth, family members, and other community stakeholders.

RECORDING: View the archived recording of this event (FLV)

[1] The White House. 2013. Now Is The Time: The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by r educing gun violence. Washington, DC: Author. Available online at (PDF).


U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services