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Illinois 'Whole Child Task Force' report recommends trauma-responsive training for teachers

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The Illinois State Board of Education’s Whole Child Task Force recently released a report on how schools can better train their staff to respond to student trauma.

Krish Mohip is the Chair of the Whole Child Task Force. He says the group’s first goal was to define terms like “trauma” and “trauma-responsive.” Once schools have a shared definition, they can start talking about what training teachers and staff need.

“When you get into some of these deeper levels that we were discussing in this task force," he said, "I think there's a significant need for more training in the state and nation.”

50% of staff at schools in the state’s trauma-responsive pilot program say they had little to no training on supporting youth experiencing traumatic stress.

Jackie Matthews is the state board’s executive director of communications. She says evaluating schools has more to do with just the number of staff they’ve trained. It also includes looking at discipline data and exclusion practices.

“All of these behaviors can present something that's discipline-related,” she said. “If a school isn't trauma-informed, they might suspend the student or expel the student, or put them in that school to prison pipeline instead of actually providing the support that they need to re-engage in their learning and feel supported.”

The task force made over 30 recommendations, including the creation of a statewide dataset on childhood trauma and training on how to identify trauma.

The state board has seven Social Emotional Learning regional hubs across the state that help train teachers on trauma responsiveness.

Schools have already used federal relief money on trauma-informed training and hiring support staff like counselors. Mathews says it appears to be working. Fewer schools were identified as “having room to improve” with safety and trust in this year’s state culture and climate survey.

The task force’s recommendations now head over to the General Assembly.