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Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press - May 3, 2012. Hardy Elementary is located on Glass St. The school was selected for both the first and second cohorts of the state's trauma-informed schools program.

The Tennessee Department of Education has chosen 14 Hamilton County public schools to take part in its second cohort of trauma-informed schools.

Trauma-informed schools support students by meeting them where they are after experiencing something traumatic. School staff including teachers, administrators and counselors work as a team to meet students' needs without making assumptions about them, said the state department of education. Teacher self-care and family involvement also are part of the approach.

The training enables more school staff beyond school counselors and social workers to support students who have experienced trauma, said Patricia Russell, director of social-emotional learning and K-12 school counseling at Hamilton County Schools.

"Now with a trauma-informed school, you have your entire school community that can support a student in such a way that not only makes them feel safe at school, but then also when you start to tap into lessons that teachers teach and the support that counselors can offer, it's also helping to give students coping skills and language to discuss, to be able to articulate how they feel, or what's causing the stress or the traumatic event that they've been through," Russell said.

Trauma ranges in scope and is not the same for every student. Examples of traumatic situations for students include bullying, witnessing violence, neglect, food insecurity or something else that could adversely affect their mental state.

The first cohort consisted of 73 schools, and the state department of education attributes the jump in trauma-informed schools in the second group to an increased awareness of meeting children's needs.

Four Hamilton County schools were in the first group, for the 2018-19 school year: Hardy Elementary, East Lake Academy, Apison Elementary and Middle Valley Elementary. Adding the second group, 17 schools in the district have or will use this training.

Hamilton County Schools involved with trauma-informed model

> Apison Elementary

> Battle Academy for Teaching & Learning

> Big Ridge Elementary

> Dalewood Middle School

> East Brainerd Elementary

> East Lake Academy

> East Ridge Middle School

> East Side Elementary School

> Hardy Elementary School

> Harrison Elementary

> Hixson Middle School

> Lookout Valley Elementary

> Middle Valley Elementary

> Orchard Knob Elementary

> Red Bank Middle School

> Snow Hill Elementary

> Spring Creek Elementary

Hardy Elementary is a unique case, with a presence in both the first and second cohorts. Principal Robin Bambrey said the school is repeating training to further understand why students may behave in certain ways and for new teachers to understand some of the methods used in the school's classrooms.

"So I think part of it is going to be to deepen our understanding and move to the next level, but also for our newer teachers to understand the why of some of the things that we have put in place and practices that we're using, so that they can really deeply understand the why of things, like we have a calm or peace corner every classroom in the same place, to understand why those are some of the things that that we do in our classrooms," Bambrey said.

The training for schools is funded through a grant from the Department of Children's Services, and schools apply individually for the program, not through their districts. Because of the growth between the first and second cohorts, the state department of education is looking ahead to a third group, or possibly implementing it as a district-wide plan to bring the training to more schools.

Russell said the goal with these schools is for the school community to recognize and respond to students' needs, both academic and non-academic.

"We know that one of the first steps to learning is mentally being prepared to learn, and if students are experiencing stress, or if they're reflecting on traumatic events, then they're not going to be mentally in a place where they can learn," Russell said. "So schools are just wanting to equip themselves with the knowledge and strategies to help students to be as successful as they can be."

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at achaturvedi@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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