Ciresi bill would fund pandemic recovery trauma-informed training for teachers

HARRISBURG, July 1 – Citing studies that found many students experienced various levels of trauma as a result of the pandemic, state Rep. Joe Ciresi introduced legislation that would establish a grant program to fund COVID-19 trauma-informed education training for schools.

No less than $20,000 each would be awarded in grants to any brick-and-mortar school entity, including public schools, charter schools, career and technical schools, and nonpublic schools, Ciresi said. Further, schools with higher populations and schools with higher levels of student poverty would be provided an appropriate grant amount that aligns with their students’ needs. A total of $50 million allocated to Pennsylvania through the American Rescue Plan would be appropriated for this one-time grant program.

“For some students, school is a place to escape certain traumatic experiences at home, such as food insecurity, neglect, poverty or violence,” said Ciresi, D-Montgomery, who specifically cited a study by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California that found many students described their mental states as lonely, overwhelmed and anxious at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic only exacerbated these traumas when it temporarily shut down that safe haven for many students.” 

Ciresi, who serves on the House Education Committee and spent 12 years on the Spring-Ford Area School District school board, added that how kids handle traumatic experiences, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, is a direct correlation on their mental and physical well-being. Traumatic experiences in childhood, also known as Adverse Childhood Experiences, are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness and substance abuse in adulthood, Ciresi said. 

“ACEs may also negatively impact an individual’s education, job opportunities and earning potential,” Ciresi said. “Now more than ever, we need schools and teachers to be educated on how the pandemic may have further impacted ACEs in their students and how they can better assist students in handling this unforeseen and widespread traumatic experience.” 

More information on H.B. 1713 is available by contacting Ciresi’s office at 484-200-8265.