Bowling Green Independent School District officials are learning how to better support students affected by traumatic experiences and boost their overall mental health at school.

Principals, guidance counselors and other administrators will be training in trauma-informed care practices Monday.

“It’s an approach to understanding where kids are coming from,” said Elizabeth Forbes, a school psychologist leading the district’s trauma-informed care program.

Between bullying, domestic violence, divorce and even school shootings, there’s a broad range of traumatic experiences that can disrupt students’ ability to learn at school.

But these problems can be more than just distractions for youngsters. Research indicates that ongoing trauma and toxic stress can negatively affect reasoning, memory and learning in a child’s developing brain, Forbes said. Students exposed to trauma score lower on measures of cognitive ability and academic assessments, she said.

But that influence doesn’t have to be permanent for a child.

Teachers and administrators can correct students’ negative thoughts about themselves and the world by learning to see behavior through a trauma-informed lens, Forbes said.

That’s what the training session Monday will be about.

“What they’re getting is going to be a crash course in what trauma-informed care is and how to establish a trauma-informed school,” Forbes said.

One of the goals of the training, Forbes said, is to teach personnel how to work with mental health providers, pediatricians and other services in the community.

School district personnel will also learn how to approach discipline problems from a trauma-informed perspective.

Under the approach, teachers and administrators try to get more information about why a student is continually acting out in school instead of just punishing the student repeatedly with little success at correcting the bad behavior.

Students exposed to trauma have learned not to trust adults, Forbes said.

“They live in a state of fight or flight all the time,” she said.

That means school employees have to learn to build a connection with students before they expect to teach reading, writing or other essential skills.

The training session will be the first step in implementing trauma-informed schools throughout the district. “We feel like it has to start from the top and come down,” she said.

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