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School and Family Engagement - Trauma Informed: A Research Project to Examine What Keeps Schools Safe

NCJ Number
David Schuldberg; Laura St. John; Marilyn King; Mark Lane
Date Published
May 2020
22 pages

This is a report on the implementation and evaluation of a project based on multi-agency collaboration and a randomized controlled trial of multi-tiered, trauma-informed, evidence-based practices in one high school, two middle schools, and eight elementary schools in Bozeman, Montana.


The report indicates that although individual and group=based clinical interventions to address childhood trauma have been researched in mental health services and in some school settings, information is lacking on the implementation of a comprehensive, multi-tiered, trauma-informed approach in schools in terms of its impact on discipline, recidivism, school attendance, and academic achievement. The current project, called Our School and Family Engagement - Trauma-Informed (SAFE-TI), is one of the first such projects in the United States. The SAFE=TI components were drawn from the widely accepted public health model of universal, selective, and indicated interventions and an expanded framework of this model proposed by the Institute of Medicine (1994). It includes a prevention, treatment, and maintenance continuum of care for behavioral health that is applicable for youth at risk for problem behaviors. The evaluation used index components based on behavior and school attendance, as well as test scores. Participant accounts converged to suggest that implementation of SAFE-TI led to significant positive changes in the following areas: 1) the approach to their jobs of many school administrators and school staff members; 2) the nature and functioning of the systems already in place for supporting students; 3) the availability of meaningful adult relationships for students; and 3) student behaviors perceived to be signs and symptoms of traumatic stress or other mental health problems. In multiple focus groups across grade groupings, teachers suggested that it was the presence of the Student Assistance Specialist (SAS) that led to their engagement with a trauma-informed perspective. 1 figure and 18 references