Sappey to introduce trauma informed education legislation
HARRISBURG, May 13 – State Rep. Christina Sappey, D-Chester, and Rep. Ryan Mackenzie, R-Lehigh/Berks, will be introducing legislation aimed at creating trauma-informed school environments in Pennsylvania.
“House Bill 1415 seeks to ensure that adverse childhood experiences are recognized in the school setting, where children arguably spend the most time, so they get the support they need to reach their full potential,” Sappey said.
Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs include all forms of abuse, neglect and other potentially traumatic experiences that occur under the age of 18. The more ACEs one child has, the greater the probability for high-risk health behaviors, chronic health conditions, emotional and behavioral dysfunction and early death, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This legislation would help teachers and staff in schools to get the training they need to recognize the signs of childhood trauma and assist in overcoming the hurdles students face in school due to the severe impacts on their brain development and functionality, as revealed by decades of research,” Sappey said.
This bill would instill trauma-informed and focused policies, procedures and practices inside the classroom, such as requiring newly elected school board members, educators and other school staff members who have direct contact with children to complete training on trauma-informed approaches to education.
Some aspects of the required training would include identifying the signs of trauma among students, how to utilize multi-tiered support systems, and recognizing schoolwide policies related to positive behavior supports, restorative justice and resiliency.
Sappey added the bill also seeks to require those pursuing a degree in education to take courses on trauma-informed approaches to create a brighter future for children of all ages in Pennsylvania.
“Children who have experienced trauma have different needs inside the classroom than children who have not experienced trauma,” Sappey said. “We have seen a marked rise in depression, anxiety, violence and other mental health issues in recent years. We can begin to address our mental health crisis and change the trajectory of a life by starting early. An educator’s response to a child who is struggling from trauma can mean the difference between succeeding academically and socially and failing out of school, or worse. Schools need empathetic, trauma-informed approaches to their curriculum.”
An identical bill is being introduced in the state Senate by Sens. Vincent Hughes and Pat Browne. Sappey said she is encouraging both chambers to take seriously the need for a trauma-informed education system in Pennsylvania.