Article by Joan Connelly
Trauma is not something that can be easily detected in the classroom, but can hide and manifest in a variety of behaviors and actions. Any student in any given classroom could have experienced some sort of trauma that affects multiple aspects of their lives. According to the American Psychological Association, a traumatic event is one “that threatens injury, death, or the physical integrity of self or others and also causes horror, terror, or helplessness at the time it occurs .” Traumatic events could be sexual abuse, physical abuse, racism, bullying, suicides, car accidents, and a myriad of other events.
Unfortunately, childhood trauma is much more prevalent than most people think. In fact, 58% of Wisconsin adults reported having one or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) . Additionally, a study by the American Psychological Association found that more than two thirds of children report experiencing a traumatic event by age 16. These numbers indicate that a trauma-informed approach to teaching and discipline should be implemented in all classrooms. Trauma-Informed care, according to Wisconsin Department of Health Services is “an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma has played in their lives .”
Our own Brown County United Way saw the tremendous need to inform our teachers and community leaders on the importance of fostering a safe and empowering learning environment for Brown County youth. The Community Training and Tools Team, an action team of the Brown County Child Abuse & Neglect Initiative (collaboration between Brown County United Way & Brown County Health & Human Services) has focused its efforts in creating a trauma-informed and resilient community through trauma-informed practice training and/or awareness events. The team has also developed a resource library and training materials and implementation toolkit to assist community organizations, schools and businesses to be trauma-informed. So far, they have engaged more than 800 local, unduplicated individuals in trauma-informed practice training and/ educational opportunities. They hope to continue the efforts to building a community conversant in ACEs, resilience and trauma informed care and making a cumulative impact. Not unlike United Way’s progress, Green Bay Area Public Schools have also pioneered their own journey to becoming trauma-informed. In a multi-year project, GBAPS is committed to training all their staff. The future for our Brown County youth is becoming more and more bright.