U.S. Senator Tina Smith, Rep. Katherine Clark Reintroduce Legislation to Improve School Climates

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA5) reintroduced legislation to improve support for youth in schools. The bill, called the Trauma-Informed Schools Act, would support training for teachers and staff in the development of positive school culture and help schools support young people struggling with adversity. The bill is co-led by Congressmen Mike Quigley (D-IL5) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA1) and Congresswoman Andrea Salinas (D-OR6).

“Young students are experiencing unique challenges in school as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased social media use, and lack of access to mental health care. More than 1 in 5 young people today struggle with their mental health, and that number is rising. We need to do more to provide them with the support they need to succeed,” said Senator Smith. “I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation, which will help schools address childhood trauma and build positive school cultures so that all students and adults are welcome and supported in school buildings.”

America is in the throes of a mental health crisis, and our kids are experiencing the worst of it,” said Democratic Whip Katherine Clark. “Overcoming this epidemic means equipping our schools with trained, trauma-informed professionals who can help students navigate whatever challenges they may encounter, both in and out of the classroom. The Trauma-Informed Schools Act makes that possible — giving the next generation a fair shot by providing the emotional and social support they need to succeed.”

“Trauma is difficult for anyone to process, but for children and teens, it can be especially life-changing and impact their ability to succeed in the classroom,” said Rep. Salinas. “Our bipartisan bill will help ensure educators are properly trained to guide students who have lived through adverse and potentially traumatic experiences. As Co-Chair of the Mental Health Caucus, I am proud to lead this legislation with my colleagues and I will continue working to provide more young people with the support and resources they need to thrive.”

“Students who have experienced trauma deserve a public school system that fosters a safe and supportive environment. I’m proud to be part of the team introducing legislation that will provide critical funding to enable teachers to fill that need,” said Rep. Quigley. “Giving educators training and resources in trauma-informed practices will ensure that students are set up for success and can process past experiences in a way that does not derail their education goals. Every child deserves a chance to reach their full potential and this bill is a necessary avenue to accomplishing that.”

“I am proud to support the bipartisan Trauma-Informed Schools Act to increase access to resources for children who have experienced immense trauma in their lives,” 
said Rep. 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. This legislation will address this need for our kids and ensure they are supported.”

The bill would help schools address adverse and potentially traumatic experiences that are common among students, which can impact student learning, behavior and relationships.  While such experiences do not inherently undermine the capabilities of students to meet and reach high expectations in academics and in life, it’s important that all students and adults feel safe, welcome and supported in school environments.  Ensuring that students are connected to school communities can enable young people’s success despite these experiences.

This bill was first introduced in 2022 as a result of U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s 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.  

Senator Smith has long been invested in increasing access to mental health services for our nation’s youth. Earlier this year, she introduced the Pride in Mental Health Act which would strengthen mental health and crisis intervention resources for at-risk LGBTQ+ youth. Last year, she introduced the Mental Health Services for Students Act would help schools partner with local mental health providers to establish on-site mental health services for students.