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Teachers Can Be Key to Helping Students Cope With Trauma, Ed. Sec. Says

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Teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers come across students who are dealing with trauma in their own lives every day, and districts and states need to make sure they know how to respond, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., said at a White House conference Monday.

King talked about his own experiences growing up with a father who had undiagnosed Alzheimer's disease.  His teachers made sure that he felt safe and challenged at school, ultimately putting him on the track to success.

"Today's conversation is about policy," King told attendees of a White House event on dealing with student trauma, but it's also about "how we create school environments that save kids' lives."

The White House conference, titled "Trauma-Informed Approaches in School: Supporting Girls of Color and Rethinking Discipline" sought to find solutions for disproportionately high suspension rates among black girls. Black girls represent 8 percent of enrolled students, but are 14 percent of students receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions. It was sponsored by the White House Council on Women and Girls, together with the U.S. Department of Education, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and The National Crittenton Foundation.

Trauma could be part of the reason, and experts enumerated ideas for helping to alleviate its impact—everything from dance and movement therapy to mentoring and counseling.

The Education Department also released some new resources to help districts combat the problem, including "Safe Place to Learn," an online toolkit that includes information about trauma sensitivity and online training programs to help educators learn how to work with kids who may be suffering from trauma.

And the administration developed guidance to help district officials figure out how to protect K-12 students from sexual assault. Ideas include bringing in a wide range of voices to draft policies to address the issue (including students and experts), allowing community members and educators to vet the policy before it becomes final, and providing extensive training to staff on implementation.

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