OPS approves trauma-informed education plan

May 28, 2021 | 12:08 am

Updated May 27, 2021 | 10:34 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

The Owensboro Public Schools Board of Education approved an enhanced trauma-informed education plan Thursday. District officials said the plan builds upon many strategies already in place to address the needs of students and families. 

In accordance with new legislation, each board of education statewide must develop a plan for implementing a trauma-informed approach in its schools by July 1, 2021. 

At a minimum, the plan should include strategies for: 

  • Enhancing trauma awareness throughout the school community
  • Conducting an assessment of the school climate, including but not limited to inclusiveness and respect for diversity 
  • Developing trauma-informed discipline policies
  • Collaborating with the Department of Kentucky State Police, the local sheriff, and the local chief of police to create procedures for notification of trauma-exposed students
  • Providing services and programs designed to reduce the negative impact of trauma, support critical learning, and foster a positive and safe school environment for every student

“Some of these strategies we already had in place,” said Summer Bell, OPS Mental Health Coordinator. “This is just strengthening our trauma-informed education and training for our staff.”

Bell said there are five components to the enhanced OPS plan, including:

  • Enhancing trauma-informed awareness within the school community
  • Assessing the school climate, including but not limited to inclusiveness and respect for diversity
  • Developing trauma-informed disciplines
  • Collaborating with the Department of Kentucky State Police, the local sheriff, and the local chief of police to create procedures for notification of trauma-exposed students
  • Providing service and programs designed to reduce the negative impact of trauma, support critical learning, and foster a positive environment for every student

One of the more recent moves was hiring Hanover Research to gather perceptions on the current state of diversity, equity and inclusion districtwide at OPS. Key findings presented earlier this month included insufficient discussion of diversity and bias; inequity based on socioeconomic status gender disparities and harassment; barriers to communication; and a need for professional equity-related training. 

OPS has also taken other actions related to addressing equity and diversity. They created an Equity Task Force; created a position for and hired a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; David Phillips as the new DEI Director; created a position for and hired an EL Student Services Coordinator; and are working to create more equal opportunities for all students.

Bell also made special note of the Handle With Care, which allows law enforcement officers at the scene of a crime or accident to identify children who have been exposed to trauma and notify the child’s school. There is no information being given except the child’s name, age and school. The notice is sent in a confidential email and/or text notification to the child’s school before the start of the school day with the words “Handle With Care.”

“Our district has really taken on the mental health initiative and is trying to build up those services for our students,” Bell said.

She said they are also looking at discipline from a trauma-informed lens, making sure they understand what is going on with the student to cause the behavior.

“Our schools are already very educated on trauma and realize that it affects students across the board and it affects their academics and social/mental health,” Bell said. “A lot of this stuff is things we’ve already been doing as a district. We’re definitely moving in the right direction. With the pandemic, I think society as a whole has seen an increase in mental health services. Even when our students did return, we saw that they needed an extra layer of support.”

May 28, 2021 | 12:08 am

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