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Mental Health - Trauma Sensitive Schools

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Wisconsin’s Trauma Sensitive Schools Initiative

TSS definition

Exposure to traumatic events in childhood is extraordinarily common. Although not all exposure to trauma leads to difficulty in functioning, research tells us that exposure to trauma and toxic stress changes people. Just as a physical assault on the body can cause bodily impairment, psychological trauma can result in a mental injury that impacts such things as a child’s ability to regulate emotions, attend to classroom activities, and/or achieve typical developmental milestones.

Schools have a great ability to prevent and mitigate the impacts of traumatic exposure on our youth. By becoming a trauma sensitive school, schools can become a protective factor for these students and increase the social and emotional and academic skills of the entire school body.

Trauma sensitive schools is a process, not a product. Strategic and thoughtful implementation is critical to ensure successful implementation. Using the principles of implementation science, DPI has worked to create an Online Professional Learning System to help support schools as they embark on the transformative process of becoming a TSS.

The TSS Professional Learning System is meant to integrate into your existing equitable multi-level system of support (EMLSS) to promote maximum sustainability and to ensure the implementation is meaningful and manageable.

The TSS theory of change is explained below:

TSS steps

Wisconsin’s trauma sensitive schools model includes six guiding principles: safety, trustworthiness, cultural responsiveness, empowerment, collaboration, and choice. The handout below provides an overview of each guiding principle.

Wisconsin’s Trauma Sensitive Schools Guiding Principles

TSS Model: Six Guiding Principles image