September 16, 2019

Pursuant to Section 161.1050, RSMo, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) established the Trauma Informed Schools Initiative. This initiative provides schools with information about trauma-informed practices, training opportunities, and guidelines. It also connects schools and parents to a website with trauma-informed resources. According to DESE a trauma-informed school is a school that:

  • realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery
  • recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in students, teachers, and staff
  • responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into its policies, procedures and practices; and
  • seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.

I am proud to report that St. James R-1 Schools is an active participant in the State’s efforts to realize and support the needs of every child. St. James has always put the needs of students at the forefront, but the introduction of the Capturing Kids Hearts program reaffirmed the district’s dedication to making each and every student feel valued and important. As we have continued to develop as a CKH district, we have also been intentional with the implementation of trauma-informed practices. We are quickly moving along the spectrum from a trauma-aware district toward trauma-informed status. 

This process has been lead by our district counselors. As the leading core of this initiative, the counseling department completed a book study of the book Beyond Logic, Control and Consequences by Heather Forbes. They attended several different trauma based workshops including Rage to Reason, Behavioral Risk Assessment, and the 2019 MO Children’s Trauma Network Training Summit, and the 2019 Trauma-Informed Schools Spring Conference. In 2018 the counseling department offered staff the opportunity to attend SOS Suicide training and a Behavioral Risk Assessment workshop. They also partnered with Prevention Consultants of Rolla to provide staff the opportunity to become Youth Mental Health First Aid Certified. 

To begin the 2019-2020 academic year, the district counselors presented trainings on suicide and the language of trauma. Other trainings that the counseling department has prepared for this year include Student Motivation and Staff Self Care (focusing on the risk of secondary trauma). They are also working with Great Circle staff to bring outside trainings that focus on trauma related topics. Faculty and Staff will have the opportunity to participate in a book study covering the book Helping Billy by Heather Forbes later this Fall with the possibility of another book study this Spring. Throughout the year staff will receive articles and information about the latest in trauma-informed practices. We are using tools learned at the Trauma-Informed Conference to make sure each student has a personal connection with at least one caring adult in the school. We have started several self care procedures to make sure our teachers are at their best when working with students. We have surveyed students to identify specific problems to make sure we are not overlooking something important,. 

Becoming a Trauma-Informed School is an on-going process. There really isn’t an “end,” because there is always room to grow and improve the services that are offered to students. In addition, student needs continue to change and our response to those needs will need to change with them. 

We are fortunate to have an exceptional team of counselors in each of our school buildings. I would like to highlight one of our counselors who has gone above and beyond at the state level to bring the very best counseling practices to St. James R-I Schools. Barb Wilson, who is one of our high school counselors, completed the requirements for the American School Counselor Association’s Trauma And Crisis Management Specialist Certification in 2018. She has been a leading participant in the development of the Missouri Model for Trauma-Informed Schools, which is a document that outlines the process and steps for becoming a Trauma-Informed School. Barb is a second year participant in the Missouri School Counselor Association Emerging Leaders program. She is also the president-elect for the South Central MSCA region. We appreciate the dedication and expertise that Barb Wilson brings to St. James R-I School District.