WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Assistant Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) introduced legislation to improve support for youth with the Trauma-Informed Schools Act. The bill would make key federal funding sources available for teachers, staff and after school programs to support trauma-informed practices in school settings. The bill also defines “trauma-informed practices” for the first time in federal education law, ensuring that such practices are evidence-based and help all students. The bill is co-led by Congressmen Mike Quigley (D-IL-5) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1).
The bill would support positive behavioral interventions, efforts to build strong school-wide cultures of trust, acceptance and connectedness, and students’ social-emotional skill development and overall well-being.
“Young students have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, losing loved ones and valuable classroom time to the virus. We need to do more to provide them the mental health support they need,” said Sen Smith. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation, which will expand trauma-informed practices and positive behavioral interventions in school so that students who are struggling with their mental health can get the support they need to succeed.”
“Our students’ success in school is about more than just test scores – they need the social and emotional support of properly trained educators to navigate incidences of trauma and stress,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important that we invest directly in the mental health of our students and the professional development of our outstanding teachers. The Trauma-Informed Schools Act will encourage positive, restorative interventions that will give every student a fair shot at success, regardless of the adversity they may have faced.”
“It is critical that our public education systems foster safe and supportive environments for school children who have experienced trauma, and show them that help is available. This bill will provide crucial funding to enable teachers to more effectively guide and help students,” said Quigley. “By providing educators with training and resources, parents can be confident that their child is being set up for success and to healthily cope with past experiences that could otherwise derail their education. Every child deserves a chance to reach their full potential, and this bill is a necessary avenue to ensuring that chance.”
“I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation that will help and support children who have experienced trauma,” said Fitzpatrick. “Experiencing trauma at a young age can impact children’s learning ability and social development during a crucial period of their lives. Currently, there are limited resources available to facilitate trauma-informed care. The Trauma-Informed Schools Act will work to increase access to the resources that children need most.”
In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory highlighting the urgent need to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health challenges were the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people. COVID-19 exacerbated these challenges through major disruptions to school and home life.
According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the earliest years of a child’s life affect their ability to learn, form healthy relationships, regulate their emotions, and achieve success for the rest of their lives. Whether due to abuse, neglect, toxic stress, or other forms of adversity, trauma can have a tremendous impact on emotional development, physical and mental health, and educational outcomes. Educators deserve professional training and resources that can better support the work they do every day.
The Trauma-Informed Schools Act formally defines “trauma-informed practices” in the federal education code and ensures that states and school districts can assist educators in accessing professional development opportunities to optimize their support of children suffering from adverse childhood experiences. The definition and full bill text can be found HERE.