Implementing Trauma-Responsive Practices
Below we provide an overview of trauma-responsive discipline practices and stories of their implementation. Each of the practices described has successfully reduced exclusionary discipline and raised student resilience. Principals and their guiding coalitions should return to Appendix D while reading this chapter and select practices that best support each vision statement, complement existing initiatives, and empower staff to become trauma-responsive. It is important to choose trauma-responsive practices that will target critical student needs and generate quick wins so teachers feel greater self-efficacy. We begin with instructional engagement.
The most engaging teachers have the fewest discipline problems in their classrooms. They successfully develop relationships, create relevant lessons, and emphasize rigor—and always in that order.
Relationships. Forty-year educator Rita Pierson states, “Kids don't learn from people they don’t like" (2013, 7:13). Indeed, teachers are the most critical factor in the process of building student resilience. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network found “school personnel are uniquely situated to identify, respond to, and be impacted by students’ traumatic stress symptoms due to their central role in children’s lives and their continued assessment of children’s learning abilities and relationships with peers and school staff’ (NCTSN, Schools Committee, 2017, p. 2). According to Downey (2008), students are more successful “when they belong to a classroom in which a teacher (a) has clear behavioral expectations, (b) conveys to students that they are personally responsible for their success, (c) creates a caring classroom community, and (d) provides opportunities for meaningful student participation” (p. 59). Pierson (2013) declares, “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who understands the power of connection, and insists they become the best that they can possibly be” (7:14).
Relevance. Culturally relevant instruction promotes student interest and positive ethnic-racial identities that reduce achievement gaps. According to Byrd (2016), culturally relevant teaching should combine high expectations, cultural competence, and critical consciousness. High expectations show a belief in students’ ability to take responsibility for their own success, while scaffolding instruction to support it. Cultural competence shows respect for and inclusivity of students’ communities and customs to bridge experiences, ideas, and familiar content with new learning. Critical consciousness encourages students to identify local problems and to engage in active problem solving. When high expectations, cultural competence, and critical consciousness are combined, students are empowered with life skills, dignity, and the ability to handle more academic rigor.
Rigor. According to McIntosh (2017), “Students with low academic skills are more likely to exhibit unwanted behavior in schools, and vice versa” (Author Comments in presentation at the National PBIS Conference). Conversely, students who are demonstrating academic success are more likely to have productive behavior, and vice versa. When teachers differentiate instruction to a student’s ability level, they are able to scaffold instruction in a positive direction. Student success leads to greater confidence and the ability to meet increasingly higher expectations. Student engagement thus enables more rigorous instruction. Rigor means much more than passing standardized state exams. After 30 years of teaching to the test, schools are now turning to deeper learning, rigor that is both relational and relevant. For example, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), is encouraging teachers to develop the five Cs: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and citizenship (VDOE, 2020). By approaching rigor through a broader lens, teachers can engage students more personally and develop life readiness skills. Student discipline is a life readiness skill.
Modeling and Teaching Discipline
While planning and delivering engaging instruction, teachers should also model and teach discipline. According to Bailey (2018a), “the biggest threat to a child’s sense of safety is an out-of-control adult” (para. 1). Yelling, belittling, shaming, publicly humiliating students, or “any classroom management or discipline system that fails to address the conscious awareness and emotional intelligence of the adult is ultimately doomed” (Bailey, 2018a, para. 4). When disciplining children, teachers must not lose their patience or be visibly reactive; instead, they should self-regulate their own behavior and consciously model desired behaviors for their students (Bailey, 2018a).
The Seven Powers for Conscious Adults (Figure 6.2) advises how teachers can model resilience for students. According to Bailey (2018a), the seven powers help teachers become more conscious of their reactions to conflict and “to stay in control of themselves and in charge of children in a manner that models the same skills we seek to teach” (para. 8). These powers enable teachers to Respond “in a way that helps children move from the resistant, lower centers of their brain to the more cooperative, higher centers” (Bailey, 2018b, para. 5).
Bailey has also identified seven Conscious Discipline Skills (Figure 6.3) to teach children “the social-emotional and communication skills necessary to manage themselves, resolve conflict, prevent bullying, and develop prosocial behaviors” (para. 3). Teachers can provide direct instruction to students in prosocial behaviors and reinforce with practice, encouragement, and correction as needed. As with academics, when behavior problems are complex or chronic, specialized interventions may be necessary. Logical and consistent consequences are also important to ensure student accountability. However, consequences must be given in a context of teaching and learning, not shaming. The goal is to help students take responsibility for their actions and give them the opportunity to redeem themselves.
Figure 6.2 The Seven Powers for Conscious Adults (Bailey, 2018a)
Figure 6.3 Conscious Discipline Skills (Bailey, 2018b)
Figure 6.4 visually represents four types of student discipline. The x-axis measures Support, the у-axis measures Expectations. Low Support, Low Expectations (Neglectful) provides students with little discipline to the extent that it is detrimental to the student. Low Support, High Expectations (Punitive) emphasizes rule-following for the sake of rules and the punishments for breaking them. High Support, Low Expectations (Permissive) provides students with little accountability or personal responsibility. High Support, High Expectations (Restorative) provides students with accountability while developing resilience and responsibility. Trauma-responsive practices should be implemented within a Restorative framework of discipline.
Figure 6.4 The Social Discipline Window (Wachtel, 2009)
Routines, Procedures, and Student Choice
Another powerful strategy for supporting all students is to provide structured and predictable daily routines, procedures, and transitions. For instance, the faculty and staff at Ecoff Elementary, Chesterfield County Public Schools, schedule a morning meeting circle time for 20-minutes at the beginning of each school day, and then again for five minutes in the afternoon. Students have an opportunity to express and share their feelings with one another and can choose what and how they communicate, participate, and learn.
At Clark Elementary, Charlottesville City Public Schools, early childhood teachers use pictorial illustrated visuals to communicate daily schedules. Dana Carrico, teacher of three-year-olds, noted, "I didn't change the schedule for the first six weeks. It was exactly the same because [the students] need to really get it embedded in their head, and become comfortable with that so they know it is safe. This is what [our day is] going to be, this is what our schedule is going to be.” Once students are comfortable with the schedule, teachers can revise the schedule and introduce a new picture. “I think it is really beneficial for all kids with trauma so they know what's coming next, because if you're coming from an unpredictable environment, that's very comforting.”
Cultural Competence Training
Cultural competence is “having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families” (National
Education Association, 2018, para. 3). For educators, cultural competence training is needed to recognize implicit bias. Many professionals do not realize some of their statements or actions may inadvertently and negatively impact a student.
Edwards (2016) found that Black students are much more likely to be suspended or expelled in homogeneously White schools or Black schools. They concluded that diverse schools with greater racial familiarity may heighten culmral competence and decrease exclusionary discipline. As discussed in Chapter 1, Black schools have statistically higher rates of free and reduced lunch, and ACEs are often associated with poverty. Culmral competence of poverty should be a priority in these schools because it avoids deficit-thinking and promotes student resilience through a trauma-responsive lens. According to Payne and Welch (2015), “If these schools transitioned to social engagement over social control, they would be more likely to reduce exclusionary discipline, reintegrate ‘problem’ students, create a sense of community that enhances students' bonds to school, and decrease student involvement in 'delinquent activities’” (p. 558). Most importantly, these schools would build student resilience.
Jessica Hawthorne, director of programs at Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC) described “culmral proficiency training” as a process of changing culture over time and should include regular positive feedback. Its ultimate goal is to promote and celebrate equity literacy. She referenced Gorski's Equity Literacy Framework (2014) which identifies five abilities and associated knowledge/skills educators need to be able to avoid educational disparities and advocate for educational equity. Hawthorne noted the framework’s flexibility and usefulness. We note the framework’s striking similarity to the four Rs (see Figure 6.5).
Figure 6.5 Five Abilities of Equity Literacy (Gorski, 2014)
108 Leading Trauma-Responsive Discipline Reform De-Escalation Techniques
De-escalation techniques are specifically meant to help smdeuts re-regulate their emotions. In terms of discipline, Heather Forbes, licensed clinical social worker, emphasizes “responding instead of reacting” (Forbes, 2012, p. 79). Teachers and administrators should not view students as “good” or “bad” but as “regulated” or “dysregulated” (Forbes, 2012, p. 9). Aregulated child is in homeostasis, a balanced or resilient state, whereas a dysregulated child is distressed and behaves in a state of either hyper-arousal or hypo- arousal (Forbes, 2012). When teachers and administrators need to quickly respond when students do “flip their lids,” Payne (2018) recommends several helpful strategies.
- 1. Recognize that the meltdown is the result of an unregulated, unintegrated brain response, not personal disrespect.
- 2. Contain the behavior so no one is hurt.
- 3. Use effective calming techniques to soothe the child. Have the student get a drink of water to metabolize the cortisol their body has produced. Encourage the student to tell a future stoxy (“What do you want to do?” “What do you want to be?”). Use tapping and touch (e.g., holding the student’s hand), and asking the student to look up. Generally, when humans look up, the brain is processing visual information. When their eyes move between the ears the brain is processing auditory information. When they look down the brain is processing emotional or kinesthetic information. Asking a student to look up helps to calm and transition an emotional response.
- 4. Use a breathing technique (e.g., slow breath in, hold and count to five, slow breath out, repeat).
- 5. Put left hand over heart, right hand over stomach and nib at the same time to release serotonin.
- 6. Directly teach Daniel Siegel's hand model to students (See Figure 6.6). When students understand what is happening in their brains when they lose control, they can better participate in the process of self-regulation (“Let’s get back to your upstairs brain”). (Payne, 2018, p. 17)
For students who are dysregulated, behavioral issues in the classroom may be manifestations of trauma. Students who cannot internally regulate require external regulations beyond consequences (Forbes, 2012). Discipline must include proactive measures including:
- 1. a safe, nuxturing, compassionate, axid athmed relationship with a regulated adult;
- 2. an inclusive sense of belongixxg; non-threatening body language (e.g., squatting, sitting);
Figure 6.6 Dan Siegel's Hand Model (Siegel, 2012)
3. avoiding fear-based motivation (e.g., “If you don’t do your work then
_ will happen”);
- 4. avoiding sticker charts that may cause anxiety (e.g., losing stickers);
- 5. giving students the opportunity to voice their feelings without judgment or correction;
- 6. giving emotional space (calming room, a walk with an adult);
- 7. giving frequent opportunity for movement and brain breaks;
- 8. involving parent support versus parent fear;
- 9. providing homework options when home is a stressful enviromnent;
- 10. assessing student processes versus student outcomes. (Forbes, 2012)
It is essential to emphasize that physical restraint of students is not a de- escalation technique. Physical restraint can lead to re-traumatization and, in some cases, death. Many school divisions require that school administrators and teacher leaders be formally trained in workplace de-escalation techniques such as the Mandt System for crisis prevention and emergency physical intervention training (see Resources at the end of the chapter).
Family and Community Engagement
Families play a vital role in creating a plan and selecting interventions to best support their child. They may help identify challenges, triggers, and potential solutions. Collaborating with families helps staff gain better insight into a student’s background and history. Mayworm and Sharkey (2014) suggest including school psychologists to help understand, identify, and support a student who has experienced ACEs.
School administrators can also encourage communication and collaborative problem solving with families. Many teachers feel apprehensive about communicating with families. Some schools require teachers to document a certain number of positive phone calls home each week. They keep a record of which students receive the calls to ensure every student receives at least one positive contact every few weeks. Other schools who traditionally do not have a large number of parents attend conferences set up home visits with families instead.
School administrators should provide training and opportunities for teachers to practice handling difficult parent conversations, and should make phone calls or attend conferences with teachers. Figure 6.7 provides guidance on “do”s and “don’f’s of parent coimnunication.
Olivya Wilson, resiliency project parent engagement coordinator, Richmond Public Schools (RPS) and GR-SCAN, referenced the Flamboyan Foundation as a resource she has used to support teachers and parents to facilitate effective communication while building positive relationships with families. The slogan on the Flamboyan Foundation website reads, “When authentic relationships between families and educators are built, everyone wins.” The foundation provides a wealth of resources designed to open the lines of coimnunication between parents and teachers. Home visits are driven by appreciative inquiry where school faculty approach conversations with families with a strengths-based mindset. “Instead of asking what is wrong, use the power of inquiiy to ask what is right?” (Meyers, 2018,
Figure 6.7 Parent Coimnunication Hacks (Minch, 2019) slide 6). Below are a few practical strategies for school leaders who decide to encourage faculty to go on home visits.
- • Ask teachers to go in pairs.
- • Set initial expectations for visits to several students.
- • Use established parent-teacher conference times or pre-service days.
- • Find ways to compensate teachers for home visits.
- • Have a “hub” staffed by a school social worker.
- • Prepare teachers and answer questions.
- • Print maps/directions.
- • Print notes to leave on the door if no one is home.
- • Schedule a time to debrief the experience with teachers. (Meyers, 2018, slide 16)
Although home visits can be an effective strategy to increase family engagement, participation in visits should be voluntary, or equitably built into teacher work requirements and compensation.
Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS)
Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS) seek to proactively respond to varying degrees of student needs with integrated strategies to serve the whole child (Fairbanks, Sugai, Guardino, & Lathrop, 2007). Most commonly, tiered academic systems are called Response to Intervention (RTI), while tiered behavior systems are called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) (McIntosh & Goodman, 2016). Many states and school divisions across the nation are working to integrate mental health services into MTSS. Tier 1 strategies are implemented schoolwide, while Tier 2 and 3 interventions are designed for students who need increasing levels of support as indicated by data. Within an effective MTSS, 100% of students receive Tier 1 universal supports. Approximately five to 15% of students require Tier 2 interventions to provide them with explicit instruction on select academic, behavioral, or social-emotional skills (e.g., making inferences from a passage, asking for help, dealing with anger appropriately) (Peterson et al., 2004). Tier 2 interventions are provided to small groups of students, typically no more than 15 at one time (NCTSN, Schools Committee, 2017; Peterson et al., 2004). Tier 3 interventions are for approximately one to seven% of a student population who have been identified as having serious or chronic behavior, academic, or mental health needs (Peterson et al., 2004). Consistent implementation of Tier 1 supports are the foundation for an effective MTSS.
School leaders can determine the effectiveness of their Tier 1 academic, behavioral, and social-emotional suppoxts by reviewing grade level or schoolwide data. For example, if more than 20% of eighth graders in a school fail the end-of-course English assessment, it is likely there is an issue with the whole group (Tier 1) instructional delivery. If more than 20% of students in an elementary school are receiving one or more office discipline referral (ODR) each year, it is likely there is an issue with initial instruction and reinforcement of school-wide behavior expectations. Ineffective Tier 1 practices can lead to the over identification of students requiring tiered interventions which demand more staff and time than many schools can suppoxt.
When implementing an MTSS, it is important to avoid identifying students by Tier. It is common to hear teachers and administrators refer to students as Tier 1, Tier 2, or Tier 3 kids. Labeling students this way can promote and perpetuate fixed mindsets about students’ abilities. Educators tier supports, not students. The purpose of an MTSS is to provide smdents with opportunities to gain the skills they need to be successful so they no longer require intervention. Students who receive tiered interventions continue to receive access to Tier 1 practices. School leaders need to establish decisionmaking rules to inform movement of smdents to and from each tier.
Although teachers in trauma-responsive schools Realize the impact of trauma on learning and Recognize signs of trauma, it is important to distinguish the role of teachers and mental health professionals. Most educators are not licensed therapists but need to be able to identify when a student needs suppoxt and how to connect him or her to appropriate service providers (Morrow, 1987). Trauxna-informed staff such as school counselors, psychologists, or social workers can help identify smdents who require Tier 3 mental health supports and collaborate with comxmmity partners to find appropriate interventions. Many schools use some forxn of a Student Support Team (SST) to make data-driven decisions about student interventions (Steinberg & Lacoe; 2017). Schools need to have persoxmel who
Figure 6.S Multi-Tiered Systems of Supports (McIntosh & Goodman, 2016) are prepared to manage any critical events or simations that could arise (NCTSN, Schools Committee, 2017).
In Virginia, schools use the Virginia Threat Assessment as a Tier 3 intervention to identify and support students who demonstrate a potential harm to self or others. Welsh and Little (2018) highlighted a study which evaluated the impact of the Virginia Threat Assessment on out-of-school suspensions (OSS). The study revealed a “53% decrease in long-term suspensions and a 79% reduction in bullying infractions” (Welsh & Little, 2018, p. 779). A more extensive study involving nearly 2,000 students revealed that students who were evaluated through the Virginia Threat Assessment were less likely to be suspended from school (Welsh & Little, 2018). This research suggests schools which take a proactive therapeutic approach to supporting students will see a reduction in exclusionary discipline.
As school leaders begin to select trauma-responsive practices to implement in their schools, the development of MTSS can provide structure to organize change efforts.
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS)
Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a research-based MTSS to organize behavior and sometimes social-emotional supports for students. Tier 1 behavior supports include effective communication, social competence, and self-management skills (Steinberg & Lacoe, 2017). Bradshaw, Mitchell, O'Brennan, and Leaf (2010) measured the influence PBIS has on school culture, discipline, and student outcomes. The study revealed that schools where educators were trained in PBIS demonstrated a significant reduction in the percentage of students who received an ODR. When schools implementing PBIS were compared to the national average, PBIS schools demonstrated fewer major ODRs per 100 students (Bradshaw et al., 2010). In alignment with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requirements, schools implementing PBIS use research-based strategies to prevent student behaviors from interfering with learning (PBIS, 2018; US Department of Education, 2018). A key Tier 1 strategy is to clearly identify and communicate expectations across all settings (e.g., classrooms, bus, cafeteria, playground, gym). School leaders should aim to have at least 80% of the students accurately identify the behavioral expectations. This goal is accomplished by positively labeling, posting, and explicitly teaching the desired behaviors while also modeling and reinforcing the expectations (PBIS, 2018).
Some faculty or staff may criticize PBIS because it lacks consequences for negative student behavior. Others may argue that PBIS only focuses on external incentives to motivate students, or may incorrectly use clip charts to shame students when they misbehave in front of their peers (Lewis,
2013). These common fallacies emphasize the importance of a strategic roll-out of PBIS. School staff must have time and opportunities to switch from traditional consequence-driven discipline and learn new discipline procedures which teach students replacement behaviors. Teachers need to practice providing positive, timely, specific feedback to students rather than focusing on tangible rewards to drive behavior change. Professional development should give strategies to build meaningful relationships with students, establish clear expectations, teach routines, procedures, and expected behaviors as often as needed throughout the year (Algozzine et al., 2014; Lewis, 2013; PBIS, 2018; Safe and Responsive Schools, 2018).
Many school leaders implementing PBIS establish a school-based PBIS Team and use the Tiered Fidelity Inventory (TFI) to guide the process. The TFI is divided into evaluation features for all three tiers and provides a brief overview of the essential structures of PBIS. The link to the TFI is at the end of this chapter.
In 2005, 50% of students at Cedar Lee Middle School, Fauquier County Public Schools (FCPS) had received at least one ODR. The principal, Ste'e Parker. Realized and Recognized that discipline practices needed to change. Parker invested in the implementation of Tier 1 PBIS and began problem solving ways to better support students being punished for minor offenses. During a five-year period, the implementation of Tier 1 PBIS decreased the number of students receiving at least one ODR to 36%, a 14% reduction.
Providing students with a faculty supported conflict resolution program is an example of a Tier 2 PBIS intervention (NCTSN, Schools Committee, 2017). Students, even at the high school level, have difficulty resolving conflicts with little to no support. Therefore, students can receive targeted support to learn how to resolve potential or existing conflicts. Erinn J. Green, co-author and assistant principal, Prince Edward County Public Schools, has used peer mediation throughout her career to help students resolve conflict. “This is a common strategy used when students are affected by interactions on social media. The students involved are spoken to separately and then brought together for an honest conversation facilitated by a trusted adult. Providing a safe space for students to develop empathy lasts long beyond the initial conversation.”
Check-in, Check-out (CICO) is another example of a Tier 2 behavior intervention in which students check-in with a trusted adult at least twice a day to set, assess, and remind students of their daily goals. Together, the students’ teachers collect data using a brief assessment tool throughout the day to evaluate the students' progress meeting goals. The assessment tool often includes student self-reflections as well. Check-In, Check-Out is an effective way to encourage, reward, and hold students accountable for daily successes on individual Behavior Intervention Plans. Checking-in at the beginning of the day sets the stage for starting a new day with a clean slate. Checking-out gives a student the opportunity to take pride in their good behavior or to debrief and discuss why their day was not successful. The data collected can be used to communicate with families, coordinate with educators, and make recommendations for further interventions if needed. Kirk Eggleston, co-author and principal of Gayton Elementary, Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS), has seen CICO work wonders with students who are often referred to the office for classroom disruptions. “CICO gives kids an ally and proponent who rewards them and holds them accountable. Many students are crying out for such a person. The CICO relationship makes an otherwise disconnected student feel valued and eager to please.”
Stephanie Poe, co-author and principal of Hopewell High School, Hopewell City Public Schools, initiated a Tier 2 and 3 PBIS strategy for marijuana possession/use. Typically, students were suspended 10 days upon the first incident, and suspended for another 10 days on any subsequent incidents with a referral to the Central Discipline Committee. The Committee could decide to place the students in an alternative school or to a contracted outplacement school. The Committee could also choose to require a hearing before the School Board for possible expulsion. Poe was concerned that suspending these students effectively sent them home to smoke more marijuana. Instead of a 10-day suspension, she provided parents and students with the option of attending drug counseling with a counselor from the local Community Seivice Board, and subsequently with a full-time in- house mental health counselor. The total time remains at 10 days, so the student might have one day of suspension and nine days of counseling, or two days suspension and eight days of counseling. The student and counselor work together to determine when those sessions will take place. The counseling sessions are confidential, information is not shared with parents or the administrators, unless the information falls under topics that counselors must report such as child abuse. According to Poe, every student who has been caught under the influence of or in possession of drugs has chosen this option, as did their parents. After participating in the counseling, Hopewell High students have had no recidivism. The school is continuing to use this process and is expanding the reasons to choose counseling over punishment with the in-house mental health counselor.
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)
Many schools embed SEL in Tier 1 core instruction. Ashdown and Bernard (2012) discovered that only 40% of the children entering school have the social-emotional skills necessary to be successful in kindergarten. Students who lack social-emotional skills display lower levels of competence in their confidence, persistence, and organization, as well as general academic achievement (Ashdown & Bernard, 2012). Social-emotional learning strategies focus on supporting and developing positive teacher-student relationships, as well as building strong smdent-student relationships (Yang et al., 2018). Yang et al. (2018) discovered a positive correlation between supportive peer relationships and student engagement at school.
In 1994, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) was founded to support the integration of SEL into public schools from early childhood through high school (CASEL, 2018). Social-emotional learning teaches students how to "recognize and understand their emotions, feel empathy, make decisions, and build and maintain relationships” (CASEL, 2018, para. 1). In 2017, Taylor, Oberle, Durlak, and Weissberg completed a meta-analysis of 82 different SEL interventions. Students who received SEL instruction demonstrated greater social and emotional competencies and prosocial behaviors and attitudes six months to 18 years after participating. Additionally, the meta-analysis revealed a 6% increase in high school graduation rates, an 11% increase in college graduation rates, and a decrease in mental health disorders, drug use, pregnancy, and involvement in the juvenile justice system (Taylor et al., 2017). Although the evidence is compelling, many educators have not made time for structured SEL in the instructional day. Some educators blame the pressure of standardized assessments and the ever expanding curriculum demands handed down from state departments of education. However, trauma-responsive educators acknowledge the investment in SEL every day increases instructional time because there are fewer interruptions due to disruptive behavior (Nixon & Keels, 2018; Taylor et al., 2017).
Social-emotional learning practices span all three tiers and grade levels. Morning meetings are a common Tier 1 SEL practice in which teachers spend the first 15-20 minutes of every day to welcome students, share experiences, facilitate activities to foster a sense of community, and integrate a morning message (Rosen, 2018). Secondary school leaders may implement SEL instruction at varied times of the day or week depending on school- specific needs. Some division and school leaders invest in packaged SEL curriculum, but there are some free SEL curricula available such as Sanford Harmony (see Resources).
Joshua Cole was very careful when introducing Ecoff Elementary, Chesterfield County Public Schools, to the SEL curriculum, Caring School Community (CSC). Many teachers were still struggling with the implementation of PBIS; therefore, Cole recognized adding another program could be overwhelming. He creatively introduced SEL to his school by combining it with PBIS, calling it P. BISSEL. He referenced a famous rapper who combined his real name and nickname to become P. Diddy. This strategy helped with teacher buy-in. Cole selected six pilot teachers from 14 volunteers, empowering them to lead the way. The six attended training sessions on how to use the resources in the CSC curriculum. Following the successful implementation of the pilot program. Cole expanded training to the rest of the staff, including instructional assistants, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers.
Bridget Manuel, third grade teacher, described her class’s morning meetings as “a very positive, an open dialogue moment.” Her students are developing a personal growth mindset, improving academically, and resolving peer conflicts. “The students feel good on the inside, they glow, and you can see it in everything that they do.”
Professional development on mindfulness is often integrated with SEL curricula as students and educators improve self-awareness. Mindfulness includes explicit instruction of strategies (e.g., breathing) to improve stress management and self-control, develop healthy relationships, and make positive choices about eating, sleep, and exercise to improve overall health and well-being (Davidson, 2018). Mindfulness can be taught at all three tiers or as a targeted intervention.
Many schools have created “sensory” rooms to provide space and strategies for students who are dysregulated to de-escalate through mindfulness. These rooms can also be used by faculty and staff. When training teachers in schools, Denise Powers, lead early childhood specialist, Circle Preschool Program, will ask if there is a space to go to feel safe and regulated. “Kids can be triggered by [being] crowded or overly stimulated,” and they require a place to diffuse. She said it is impoxlant to determine who can be there to help the child со-regulate. If the teacher is alone in the room. Powers suggested having a plan for ensuring someone is always available to help the student co-regulate.
Ram Bhagat, manager of school climate and culture strategy, explained that Richmond Public Schools (RPS) have developed “optimal healing spaces,” or mindfulness rooms, based on work by Holistic Life in Baltimore, Maryland. These mindfulness rooms include things such as yoga mats, jump back chairs, lava lamps to help students self-regulate and de-stress, and staffing. Teachers can complete a referral to have a mindfulness-trained staff member lead a lesson for their class. Bhagat explained that Holistic Life originally implemented mindfulness rooms in Baltimore Public Schools (BPS) to help with stress, trauma, and dysregulation, which he calls “social arrhythmia,” and “communities out of balance” where disconnection, mistrust, and alienation are common. Through the use of mindfulness rooms in BPS, suspensions in one elementary school were eliminated. According to Bhagat, BPS also “discovered students began reciprocal teaching, keeping each other in check.” In other words, mindfulness rooms taught students how to help themselves and one another.
Ashley Williams, owner of Bare Soul Yoga, discussed the importance of family engagement in mindfulness training. Parents of children who participate in her lessons report how effective mindfulness practices are in teaching their children to handle difficult situations. Communication with parents and families regarding ACEs and trauma-responsive practices, such as mindfulness, helps families understand the purpose and encourages them to use what is being taught at home.
Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice
Human nature drives individuals who have been harmed by another person to seek retribution; however, punishment often leaves victims and perpetrators with unresolved feelings (Sullivan & Tifft, 2001). Restorative justice shifts the focus from punishment to reconciliation and a sense of belonging. “Restorative practices are based on restorative justice principles rather than punishment” and provide structured opportunities for both parties to provide restitution, find a resolution, and reconcile the relationship (Center for Restorative Process, 2018, para. 3). In a school environment, restitution can include the replacement of an item that was stolen or broken, but often involves some type of community service to give back to the school. Learning how to support students and teachers through this process requires professional development.
Restorative practices challenge traditional school discipline because the focus is relationship-based rather than rule-based (Payne & Welch, 2015). The focus on relationships does not mean eliminating consequences. On the contrary, the emphasis is on developing empathy for those impacted while maintaining consistent behavioral expectations (PBIS, 2018). Common restorative practices include restorative chats, restorative circles, student conferences, peer mediation, and family or group decision-making conferences. Successful implementation of restorative practices across tiers reduces recidivism and increases academic achievement (Center for Restorative Process, 2018). Restorative practices require a whole school approach where community members, parents, educators, and students believe discipline is an opportunity to teach self-reflection, empathy, and self-awareness to improve relationships, develop a sense of community, and build resilience (Romero, Robertson, & Warner, 2018). Restorative practices are a mindset. Appendix E provides a Restorative Justice Mindset
Survey to help lead all stakeholders toward a restorative and collective approach to student discipline.
Bob Garrity, owner of Garrity Mediation & Consulting, is an expert in training educators to implement restorative practices and restorative justice. He described the difference between restorative practices and restorative justice.
Restorative practices should focus on the proactive piece, the community building piece, the classroom circles, the teacher language, the teacher-student relationships, the student-student group relationships. [Restorative justice] is high on accountability, [and not] soft on crime. It requires a commitment to change the behavior which caused the harm and requires a means of restoring the relationship with the person harmed and/or the community.
According to Garrity, instituting restorative practice and restorative justice in schools significantly reduces suspensions. Both seek to help students learn responsibility and empathy within the school community by “building community in the classroom” and teaching expected behaviors through inclusionary practices, rather than simply punishing students through exclusionary practices. Garrity shared numerous examples of schools and teachers who have instituted restorative practice and/or restorative justice within the school or classrooms. He stated the schools and teachers have not only seen reductions in discipline issues and bullying, but they have also seen significant increases on state test scores. "If kids feel heard, kids feel respected, kids feel tmsted, and they can feel like they're in a trusting environment, they’re going to be more apt to participate.”
Restorative In-School Suspension (ISS)
A common Tier-2 discipline intervention is in-school suspension (ISS). Unfortunately, most ISS models “can be little more than window-dressing designed to pull down out-of-school suspension (OSS) numbers” (In-school suspension: A learning tool, 2018, para. 3). Some school divisions have simply replaced OSS with ISS, exchanging an off-site form of exclusion with an on-site one (Gonzalez, 2012).
Recommendations for trauma-responsive ISS stem from sound research that either precedes or dissents from discipline practices during the zero- tolerance era. Morris and Howard (2003), citing ShoxTs (1988) research, identified three types of ISS programs: punitive, academic, and therapeutic. The punitive model “is based on the belief that students misbehave because they want to cause trouble within the classroom and that punishment will eliminate misbehavior” (Morris & Howard, 2003, p. 156). Students are detained with minimal communication or assistance for an average of three to five days (Morris & Howard, 2003). The academic model “assumes that discipline problems arise when students have learning difficulties that cause them frustration and that their behavior will improve with instruction in basic skills, ultimately resulting in academic growth” (Morris & Howard, 2003, p. 156). The academic model provides diagnostic assessment, individual learning goals, and remedial instruction by a skilled teacher (Morris & Howard, 2003). A third model, the therapeutic model, is “designed to help students develop problem-solving skills that should lead to appropriate behavior changes” (Morris & Howard, 2003, p. 156).
Morris and Howard (2003) suggested the most effective design for an ISS program should be differentiated for each student with elements of the academic and therapeutic models. They described a working example at a middle school where a certified teacher built relationships with individual students to assess and address academic and therapeutic needs. During a typical day, the ISS teacher:
- • helped each student to physically organize his or her notebooks and locker;
- • assisted each student with a time management plan for completing homework and unfinished work;
- • ensured each student completed assigned academic work for full credit;
- • taught social skills lessons;
- • taught character skills lessons;
- • helped each smdent to take ownership of his or her actions;
- • helped each smdent to identify and own the problem;
- • helped each child to brainstorm alternative ways of dealing with a similar problem in the future;
- • brought in the counselor for group or individual discussion;
- • scheduled follow-up conferences with each smdent after five days of return to the regular classroom to check on smdent progress. (Morris & Howard, 2003, p. 156)
The ISS teacher should be trained with restorative practices to help students improve self-image, communicate, problem-solve, and understand what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable in a school environment. The model also includes staff development for teachers, parenting skills, home and school survival training for students, referral to outside mental health services, and monitoring of smdent behavior, both positive and negative, after leaving the ISS program (Morris & Howard, 2003).
This model is consistent with Gootman’s (1998) recommendation that ISS teachers should not serve as a “sergeant at arms” but as a supportive resource of “immediate and long-term intervention” (p. 39). Stewart Kline (2016) suggested, “Restorative practices present schools with an opportunity to respectfully respond to students’ inappropriate behavior, while offering an inclusive, educational, non-punitive approach to make things right for everyone involved” (p. 100).
Establish only Administrators can make ISS Referrals. To make things right, schools must redefine the protocols of ISS to seek inclusion versus exclusion (Sullivan, 1989). The most important protocol to change is that only administrators should determine if the student's conduct warrants ISS to avoid inconsistency and subjectivity by various teachers (Vavrus & Cole, 2002). A teacher’s office referral is a request for a Tier 2 discipline intervention; at that level, the administrator may assign or not assign ISS in the context of student (versus teacher) need and adherence to division guidelines. Reserving ISS as a Tier 2 response will “avoid the use of ISS as a first response to minor behavior problems that might abdicate teacher responsibility for discipline in the classroom” (Sullivan, 1989, p. 35). If teachers are allowed to refer students to ISS, they should first document several prior interventions with an administrator.
Develop and Communicate an ISS Mission Statement. Sheets (1996) recommended a second protocol change. The principal should develop an ISS mission statement together with the full faculty. The process of developing a mission statement creates buy-in to the inclusionary redefinition of ISS philosophy while it clearly outlines the age appropriateness, structure, policies, record-keeping, and procedures of ISS referrals (Sheets, 1996; Sullivan, 1989). A copy of the collective ISS mission should be distributed to each member of the faculty and administration (Sullivan, 1989). This mission statement can be embedded into your strategic vision, with the clear distinction that ISS is a restorative versus punitive intervention.
Ensure ISS Meets the Needs of SWD. A third protocol must be to protect SWD. Smdents with disabilities are overrepresented in ISS for a variety of reasons. Some SWD have difficulty responding to social cues, making well- informed decisions, and navigating complex social interactions (Zhang, Katsiyannis, & Herbst, 2004). If special education students are continually returning to ISS, the IEP team should determine if the behavior is a manifestation of the disability, complete a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) and create a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP). Relevant data should help determine if the student is receiving instruction in their least restrictive environment (Ryan, Katsiyannis, Peterson, & Chmelar, 2007).
Limit the Student-Teacher Ratio and Have Defined Goals. A fourth protocol should limit the size and scope of ISS. When designing a restorative ISS program, “decide the maximum number of smdents that the ISS facility can suitably accoimnodate and that the in-school suspension teacher can effectively supervise” (Sullivan, 1989, p. 38); preferably, no more than 8-12 students at one time (Vanderslice, 1999). Each student should have relevant academic instruction with remedial support for full academic credit, a portion of the day devoted to restorative practices such as counseling and problem solving, and a supportive re-entry plan that includes follow up communication with administration, classroom teachers, counselors, parents, and the student (Gootman, 1998; Morris & Howard, 2003; Sullivan 1989). Work completion and student responsibility should be emphasized for every student in ISS (Sullivan, 1989); however, accomplishing either objective requires the ISS program to be individualized to each student (Sheets, 1996). Restitution and conflict mediation should be used during ISS for students who have had physical altercations with one another (Delisio, 2007).
Hire, Train, and Compensate ISS Specialists. A fifth protocol requirement deals with staffing. To meet the academic and restorative needs of students needing inclusionary intervention, an ISS program requires hiring and funding of a fiill-time certified teacher who, ideally, has had experience in counseling or teaching special education (Dickinson & Miller, 2006; Sheets, 1996). Delisio (2007) recommended ISS teachers should be trained in mediation and conflict resolution.
Create an ISS Team. To support the ISS teacher, school counselors, social workers, and psychologists should be available to augment what the ISS teacher can provide to individual students. They may be better equipped to serve or refer students to community services with trauma-informed therapeutic interventions. Hochman and Worner (1987) found group counseling as an ISS intervention "can increase students' self-esteem and their awareness of self-defeating attitudes and behaviors, help smdents set and follow through on personal goals, and contribute to building effective problem solving skills” (p. 93).
Change the Name of ISS. Last but not least, changing the name of ISS is essential. "Suspension” is an exclusionary term whether it occurs outside or inside the school. Shifting ISS from an exclusionary to inclusionary intervention warrants giving it a name that reflects teaching prosocial behavior and emphasizing discipline, not punishment. For example, the Focus and Recovery (FAR) Room is Taylor Middle’s alternative to ISS (Fauquier County Public Schools). The FAR process is anchored to the schoolwide PBIS expectations and embeds restorative practices. Taylor Middle School was able to staff a full-time paraprofessional as the FAR Room teacher. A pass to the FAR Room is defined as a minor referral and can be issued for disrespect, disruption, or defiance; however, before a student is sent to the FAR Room, the teacher must document with an administrator at least three interventions. Those interventions could be a redirection, a quiet conversation with the student, and a short time away from the task to provide the student with an opportunity to refocus. Once a teacher has tried at least three interventions with little impact on student behavior and the teacher identifies the need for some space, the teacher can send the student to the FAR Room. When the student receives the pass, the teacher is asked to complete a brief form to inform the FAR Room teacher about the circumstances (see Figure 6.9).
Once the student arrives, the FAR Room teacher gives the student an opportunity to de-escalate if needed, and then the student must answer a set of restorative questions. There are two sets of restorative questions they use to facilitate reflection (Figure 6.9). After the students have answered the questions, the FAR Room teacher prepares them to have a restorative chat with the classroom teacher who sent them to FAR Room. This chat will occur during homeroom the following school day. Students who are sent to the FAR room are released at the end of the class period to continue on with the day. The FAR Room teacher enters the data into the SWIS database and informs each student’s homeroom teacher where the student needs to go in the morning to complete the restorative chat. If the student does not answer the questions and is not ready to return to the class where they had the issue, they return to the FAR Room to provide more time to process. Trained teacher leaders and administrators are available to facilitate restorative chats if necessary.
Figure 6.9 Focus and Recovery (FAR) Room Questions for the student... (personal communication, J. Linthicum, 2018)
124 Leading Trauma-Responsive Discipline Reform
Resources to Respond
We selected the resources below based on research and feedback from practitioners. This list is not exhaustive, rather a starting point for educators interested in developing trauma-responsiveness in their schools by empowering others to act and generating quick wins.
Figure 6.10 Resources to Respond
Figure 6.10 Continued