The Kentucky Student Voice Team is opposed to Senate Bill 93 for a multitude of reasons, including a component of the bill that would effectively eliminate trauma-informed care in schools.
Trauma-informed care is a framework for helping people navigate the impacts of dangerous experiences. It is an approach that shifts the focus of support from “What is wrong with you?” to one that asks “What happened to you?”
The current law notes that a trauma-informed approach is recommended in schools by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration “to foster a safe, stable, and understanding learning environment for all students and staff.” The fact that it is recommended by SAMHSA shows that the principles are well vetted and based on research.
Couldn’t it be said with the utmost certainty that all parents and students want a safe, stable, learning environment? As an organization that values research and advocates for high quality education for all, we find the legislative attempt to strike an evidence-based approach to supporting the mental health of young people problematic.
Additionally, KSVT is currently working on what we are calling our Rose Revival Campaign, focusing on the 1989 Rose v. Council for Better Education decision. In that landmark case, the Kentucky Supreme Court decided that Kentucky was not providing an adequate education for all and enshrined seven capacities to define in our state constitution exactly what an adequate education means. One of these capacities holds that our schools should provide students with sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of their mental and physical wellness. Eliminating trauma-informed care from schools would be counterproductive in meeting this constitutional promise.
The introduction of trauma-informed care language to state law in 2019 was a huge step in making schools safer and more supportive for students. Some of the language SB 93 would eliminate includes “all schools must provide a place for students to feel safe and supported to learn throughout the school day,” If schools aren’t doing that, then how do we expect to raise test scores and achieve the academic and other educational goals we all want?