La Loche, Saskatchewan Shootings

Traumatic Aftermath
Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA)

“The fields of Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Crisis/Trauma Response are inseparably connected.” J. Kevin Cameron

In the aftermath of the shootings in La Loche, Saskatchewan, we now have a national critical period for both increased threats to duplicate the crime, as well as a critical period for an increase in trauma symptoms.  This threat is not just at ground zero (where the traumatic event occurred) but in many schools and communities across the Country (impact zone). Although high profile shootings have spiked dramatically in the United States, the tragedy in La Loche is the highest profile incident in a Canadian High School since the 1999 school shooting in Taber, Alberta.  A tragedy of this magnitude on our soil means we are in the most significant school-based critical period we have experienced as a country, in almost 17 years. As such, this ALERT will remain in effect longer than usual to include as much condensed information as possible.

Whether the case is VTRA, Crisis/Trauma Response or both, remember that high-profile violence does not cause people to go from zero (no risk) to sixty (extreme risk) – instead it simply “intensifies pre-existing symptoms in already troubled individuals.”  As all prior ALERTS or E-Memos have focused on VTRA, this ALERT will begin with key points regarding traumatic aftermath and will conclude with key points regarding VTRA.

Crises/Trauma Response – The Traumatic Event Systems (TES) Model

Key Points:

1.     First principle of Crisis/Trauma Response is “model calmness.”

2.     A standard of Psychological First Aid is that traumatized individuals will often seek us out if we present ourselves as safe to approach and available.

3.     Communication regarding where and when counselling and support services will be offered is essential; and having the right “types” of helpers there is paramount. This can be a well-organized combination of skilled therapists/counsellors and naturally skilled helpers under the direction of a clearly identified team leader.

4.     Some individuals may not seek out services, and yet are in need of intervention and may need professionals to “over function” on their behalf by identifying them and making the first contact.

5.     School staff, district leaders, helping professionals from the community and others should formally meet as often as necessary to identify and then triage those we believe may currently be at the highest level of risk. The following are key criteria:

Potentional High Risk Students:

Note: This criteria may be applied to assess potential risk of staff and parents as well:

·                    anyone whose senses were activated by traumatic stimuli (i.e. students and staff who witness a school incident).

·                    immediate family members.

·                    relatives.

·                    close friends.

·                    boyfriend/girlfriend.

·                    team mates.

·                    ex-boyfriend(s)/girlfriend(s).

·                    classmates.

·                    students, staff, parents with active mental health concerns (i.e., suicidal ideation, severe depression, anxiety disorder…).

·                    students, staff, parents who abuse drugs and alcohol.

·                    students, staff, parents with a significant emotional tie with the deceased…….positive or negative.  (This includes any individual who was involved in an adversarial relationship with a victim.)

·                    students, staff and parents who have experienced an historical or recent loss such as the death of a parent, sibling, friend, spouse, etc.

·                    students, staff, parents with unresolved abuse/trauma.

·                    leaders or over-responsible students, staff and parents who may blame themselves for “not seeing the signs” or not “knowing what to do”.

·                    any individual who you intuitively suspect may be at risk.

6.     In the aftermath of a high-profile traumatic event there is a belief that those in the community most impacted only want help from people they know. However, our experience is that “some” people only want help from people they know while “other” people will only want help from people they do not know. Therefore a combination of local and outside supports is the best intervention.

7.     Trauma Response Continuum – ensure that everyone understands that the response to trauma is on a continuum from individuals who may not be impacted at all, to those with profound symptoms, and every possible response in between. As well, some may have acute symptoms only, while others may have chronic symptoms.

8.     It is very common to have either delayed or denied responses to trauma. A delayed response comes from individuals who are either required by their profession, or by nature in their families or friendship groups, to be a formal or natural leader. If traumatized, many of these individuals do not exhibit symptoms until weeks, months or a year after the first anniversary has passed; and when those they were helping are now stable.

9.     Everyone has a “right” to be as impacted as they need to be. Sadly, after many high profile tragedies many people will ridicule others saying they don’t have a right to be traumatized, because “they barely knew the deceased/victim(s)”.  Especially during a high profile trauma, people’s personal histories of grief, loss and trauma from the past, have a way of converging as the current loss feels like they are reliving the past. BE COMPASSIONATE.

10.  All systems go! In the Traumatic Event Systems (TES) Model we focus on ensuring that services are delivered to those most immediately impacted first. Then, in general, students (children and youth) are the next priority, followed by school staff, and parents/caregivers. In many cases, where crisis/trauma response efforts either had no real effect, or made matters worse, it was because professionals focused on the students only and failed to support staff and parents.  All systems go means we take care of:

·        Students (children and youth)

·        Staff (teachers, support staff and administration)

·        Parents/Caregivers (including other adult community members who are connected to or impacted by the aftermath of a tragedy)

11.    Communication:  Staff need to be communicated with openly so they understand all of the key circumstances that may affect them and their students, as well as know how they can help and be helped. Parent/Caregiver meetings also need to occur to educate parents how to determine if their children are doing okay and if not, what to do and where to go. Professionals need to assist some parents with how to talk to their children by modeling through how we talk to parents. Parents/Caregivers also need our support, as during Traumatic Events we consistently see dramatic symptom development in parents, especially if they feel they do NOT have a right to be traumatized and yet are bearing the weight of the symptoms. BE COMPASSIONATE.

12.    School district leadership, police, city/town councils, cultural leaders, mental health, social services, health regions and others need to be publicly seen together from time to time for press conference updates and privately seen together for parent/community meetings, staff meetings etc. One of the most powerful ways to “model calmness” for the entire community is for these agencies to truly collaborate together. We can “feel” if we are in good hands. BE COMPASSIONATE.

Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA)

Key Points:

1.     It is essential to stay hyper-vigilant when receiving any reports of students, staff, parents or others exhibiting “worrisome behaviours”. Because of how high profile this incident is we should also be watchful of anyone who may be struggling at this time.

2.     Be aware that if there is a shift in the behavioural baseline of a student it is important to collect data in collaboration with local support agencies and conduct other assessments prior to taking any disciplinary measures. “Stage I Threat Assessment (VTRA) trumps suspension”.

3.     The school/police relationship is the foundation for Stage 1 Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) and staff should be formally connecting with each other to review the VTRA protocol/process. Mental health, child protection, probation and other related community partners should be informed as to the contents of this ALERT.

4.     Pay close attention to VTRA cases where the individual being assessed has inordinate knowledge of violent incidents worldwide or seems fixated on this recent incident.

5.     Identification with the Aggressor: “The more a troubled individual identifies with the aggressor the more it will increase their level of risk”. Therefore, pay close attention to the media coverage about details of the alleged perpetrator. The profile they create and/or glean from social media about the shooter will provide insight to VTRA team members across the country as to who may be contextually high risk, because they are caught within this current impact zone.

6.     Reminder that a critical period is a ‘predictable time frame for increased threat- making or threat-related behaviour’ that will extend at least two weeks beyond the extensive media coverage and social media reports. Because of social media the critical period in La Loche will last the longest followed by the Province of Saskatchewan. The rest of the countries critical period should be as already noted.

7.     All VTRA cases that come to your attention need to include a comprehensive review of the individuals’ online behaviour and digital footprint as that is where we find the most blatant pre-incident signs and indicators. The role that social media plays as both a risk enhancer as well as a prominent contributing source of VTRA data has never been stronger. An accurate VTRA risk determination cannot be made without reviewing the entirety of their digital baseline.

8.     We need to “strategically” intensify our connections with our highest risk children and youth (as well as staff and parents and caregivers) who may be “Empty Vessels”. Remember “no one can engage in a serious act of violence unless they feel “justified” in attacking that target or type of target”. The power of positive, meaningful human connection is one of the best violence prevention strategies we can utilize.

9.     Every high-baseline school should be provided, if deemed necessary, with an increase in visibility of our School Resource Officers or other police of jurisdiction during the first couple of days back to school. The presence of a relaxed police officer interacting with students, staff and parents in the beginning of the day can help to lower the anxiety for schools across the country that may have had their own histories of violence or other traumas.


We are aware that in some regions of the country where signed VTRA Protocols exist the task of giving “Fair Notice” about the protocol has not been completed or not done at all. As noted in the 9th Edition of the “Community Protocol for Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) and Intervention”:

Prior to any violence threat risk assessment (VTRA) protocol being implemented, all students, staff, and parents should be provided with information about the protocol and procedures so that “fair notice” is given that violence and threats of violence will not be tolerated. Senior school division and community agency personnel should take the lead in presenting the protocol to ensure that students, parents and staff are all aware that the new protocol is a jurisdiction-wide policy and that a consistent message is given regarding its use.

Fair Notice can be given through letters to parents, brochures, media releases, parent meetings, staff meetings, new student orientation or all of the above. School districts/divisions may also include a brief “Fair Notice” statement in student “agendas”.

In the least we need to educate staff to know what they should report; when to report; and to whom. A 15 to 30 minute staff meeting where those trained in VTRA can give a quick overview will help to inoculate untrained professionals to be more aware.

On the short-term we recommend that all VTRA protocol jurisdictions provide a brief overview (or refresher) of the basics of the model such as:

·        Serious violence is an evolutionary process – no one just snaps.

·        Everyone moves along a “Pathway of Justification”.

·        The biggest problem in the aftermath of high-profile violence is “under reaction” to often blatant indicators someone is moving on a pathway to serious violence.

·        First hypothesis in threat assessment “It’s a cry for help”!

·        Second hypothesis in threat assessment “conspiracy of two or more”.

·        The Quote that Kills: “Good Student (Nice Staff) with no history of violence can’t believe they would do it” as justification for not reporting a threat.

·        Empty Vessels

There is no question that as a country we have been doing amazing work in strengthening multi-agency collaboration in a number of areas including Violence Threat Risk Assessment. The outpouring of support for our friends and colleagues in La Loche has been an example of this and while hearts are broken, the unconquerable Saskatchewan spirit is evident even in this struggle. Be compassionate; be open and be truly “available” during this critical phase.

J. Kevin Cameron, M.Sc., R.S.W., B.C.E.T.S., B.C.S.C.R.

Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress

Diplomate, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment & Trauma Response
Theresa Campbell, M.A.

President, Safer Schools Together Ltd.

An Interview with Frank Grosspietsch

Resources Regarding the Crisis in Ukraine

Many of you have reached out to ask if we have age-appropriate resources for supporting students regarding the crisis in Ukraine. The resources below provide tips for teachers and parents that we hope are helpful for your schools.

How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War: Common Sense Media gathers tips and conversation starters to help you talk to kids of different ages about the toughest topics.

Resilience in a time of war: Tips for parents and teachers of elementary school children: This article from the American Psychological Association can help adults guide their young children beyond fear and to resilience.

Resilience in a time of war: Tips for parents and teachers of middle school children: The American Psychological Association breaks out tips and strategies for parents and teachers of middle school-aged children.

National Child Traumatic Stress Network provides resources that can be filtered by topic or keyword and by audience with a focus on how adults can identify traumatic responses in young people and how to support them.


Trauma-informed practice is an essential element of many of Safer Schools Together’s professional training sessions. Please reach out to [email protected] if you would like to schedule a session for your school community. 

Addressing the Gang Violence in BC


UPDATE: Registrations for these sessions are now closed!

In light of the current Lower Mainland gang conflict and its impact across the province, SST will be offering complimentary sessions for: Students, Staff (Educators & Law Enforcement), and Parents



The tragic announcement of the remains of 215 children found at former Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia

‪The bodies of 215 Indigenous children, found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School has elevated intergenerational trauma for many Indigenous communities. We have included a list of resources dedicated to supporting Indigenous peoples here.

A Conversation on Race in Schools


2020 – Positive Trends Roundup

The Language of Social Media

The Language of Social Media

The Language of Social Media

Photo courtesy of @cottonbro

As the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing measures continue, our Safer Schools Together (SST) Threat Analysts have noticed an increase in students using covert language to communicate suicidal intentions, anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.

“Our youth have taken to social media to remain social at a time where we have been forced to physically distance,” says SST Trainer and Senior Threat Analyst Nick Chernoff. “It’s important for parents, educators, and law enforcement who support student safety to pay attention to what youth are posting online, especially because the majority of our social interactions have moved online.”

Although students have always had their secret language to express thoughts and feelings on social media, we’ve noticed a resurgence in this online trend and new accompanying vocabulary. We first saw a drastic increase in covert language with the use of the hashtag, #mysecretfamily. With this trend, youth were posting about family members Ana (girls) or Rex (boys) to speak about their struggles with anorexia, family members Sue (girls) or Dallas (boys) if they were struggling with suicidal ideation, and other names that corresponded with various mental health struggles.


Students use secret language to share mental health struggles. Please be warned, if you decide to search the internet for secret language terminology, you may come across triggering content.

Now we are seeing students posting about wanting to become ‘unalive’ or ‘unal!ve’, using misspellings like ‘sewercide’, when they are struggling with depression and suicidal ideation. Seemingly innocent lines such as ‘I had pasta tonight’ and ‘I finished my shampoo and conditioner at the same time’ are often meant to be seen as a cry for help when posted on social media by teens and young adults.  It is believed that the phrases are derived from Hannah Dains’ poem ‘Don’t Kill Yourself Today,’ which lists reasons why a suicidal person should choose to stay alive.

Hannah Dains

Hannah Dains

Students may use covert language as a subtle cry for help. They don’t necessarily want to come out and directly speak about the things they are going through so they use these codes to signal to their peers that they are struggling. Another reason for the use of secret language could be that certain social media platforms have censored posts containing hashtags such as #depression #suicide and even those that were once covert such as #Ana and #Sue.

According to Chernoff, the added stress of the pandemic is causing increased anxiety in youth, and it’s more important than ever to pay attention to the things they are posting online. “Take a few extra seconds when looking at a social media post to see if it has a hidden meaning, you may be surprised,” he says.

Social Media Platform Updates:  

  • Facebook Vanish mode: Facebook Messenger’s vanish mode will let users send messages that automatically delete. “Vanish mode is also opt-in, so you choose whether to enter vanish mode with someone. If someone takes a screenshot of your chat while you’re using vanish mode, you’ll be notified.”
  • Facebook / Instagram Messenger: Facebook launches cross-platform messaging on Instagram and Messenger. Users currently have to opt-in to use this feature.
  • Instagram Changes: Big changes in Instagram include a different layout and a new Instagram Checkout icon making in-app purchases easier. Instagram has also added keyword search in addition to profiles and tags.
  • Snapchat Spotlight: Spotlight is seen as Snapchat’s version of the popular short-form videos that were popularized by TikTok. Spotlight is described by Snapchat as, “a new entertainment platform for user-generated content within Snapchat.” Like TikTok, over time Snapchat’s algorithm will personalize Spotlight videos to suit users’ individual interests. According to Tech Crunch, “To encourage creators to post to Spotlight, Snapchat says it will be distributing more than $1 million every day [to those] who create the top videos on Spotlight.” SST is concerned about the harmful behaviors we may see from youth as a result of this monetary offer. In August of this year, Instagram also jumped on the popularity of short-form videos with its launch of Reels.
  • Twitter Fleets:Fleets allow you to share fleeting or transitory thoughts, and after 24 hours, they’ll disappear from view. Fleet authors can see who views their Fleets, including accounts with protected Tweets, by clicking into their Fleets and tapping on the Seen By text at the bottom.”

SST provides monthly (90-minute) remote learning sessions covering Current Behavioral Trends and Digital Updates. Sign up for a 1-year subscription

Theresa Campbell with former VPD Chief Jim Chu

Theresa Campbell Wins Surrey Board of Trade’s Women in Business Award

SBOT Women Business Logo

Theresa Campbell, President and CEO of Safer Schools Together (SST) has won a Surrey Board of Trade, Women in Business award, in the category of Social Trailblazer.

Since 2012,  SST has been helping schools and law enforcement professionals throughout North America minimize and manage their risks of student violence with reliable, professional training. “We make sure we’re available for law enforcement and school districts when they’re facing stressful situations,” says Campbell. “Most importantly for us, we’re able to demonstrate around the world the impact that our work can have on early intervention for young people on the pathway to violence. The work we do is already very rewarding. It’s just a bonus when it gets recognized.”

Campbell developed PSSTWorld, the first web-based anonymous reporting tool to encourage students to get personally involved in ensuring the safety and security of their school. She also developed Digital Threat Assessment training, which trains school safety teams to establish digital behavioural baselines for threat assessments.

Theresa Campbell with former VPD Chief Jim Chu

Theresa Campbell with former VPD Chief Jim Chu

In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious Frederic Milton Thrasher Award for superior service in gang prevention. The same year she was awarded the 2008 Solicitor General Crime Prevention and Community Safety Award of Excellence in recognition of her contribution and commitment to crime prevention and community safety.

Campbell is very involved in the community and has served on many boards and committees—liaising with various levels of government, police services, school districts, regional health and social services. She is currently an executive board member of Odd Squad, an organization founded by former VPD (Vancouver Police Department) members that design prevention and educational programs for youth.

In 2016, SST’s partnership with the B.C. Ministry of Education was honoured with the Premier’s award for work done on the Expect Respect and a Safe Education (ERASE) Bullying Strategy. ERASE is a multi-pronged bullying and violence prevention strategy program run by SST for the Ministry that brings together schools, students, teachers, police, Crown counsel and other community partners to prevent bullying and violence in B.C. schools.

Last year SST was also awarded the Surrey Board of Trade’s Corporate Social Responsibility Award at their Excellence Awards.

The Rapid Rise of Vaping - Lynda Steele

The Rapid Rise of Vaping

TikTok Ban

TikTok Ban, Now What?

TikTok Ban

Trump Administration Bans TikTok in the United States. Photo courtesy of Kon Karampelas.

TikTok is banned in the U.S.

The Trump administration announced plans this week to restrict access to TikTok in the United States starting Sunday, September 20th. While existing users can continue to use the app on their devices, updates will not be supported and new users will not be able to download the app.

The ban of TikTok and WeChat (the largest chat platform in China) comes because of concerns of both apps’ collection of American citizens’ personal data. TikTok gained popularity by allowing users to post short video clips set to music. Videos can be edited with filters and manipulated in different ways. Content creators can and have used this platform to gain overnight success by posting a single viral video. This has been the reason for TikTok’s explosive growth—the app allows everyday people to become internet sensations.

“It’s more of an entertainment platform than lifestyle one, which is why it’s been so popular. This type of content isn’t going away,” says Colton Easton, Threat Analyst Manager for Safer Schools Together. “There’s going to be a move towards other platforms.”

Charli D'Amelio TikTok

Popular TikTok creator Charli D’Amelio recently joined rival app Triller.

The Future of TikTok Followers and Influencers:

Some of the platforms Easton mentions are: Triller, Byte, and Instagram Reels. Content creators, including TikTok’s most prolific user, 16-year-old Charli D’Amelio, have already begun to explore other platforms. D’Amelio, who has over 85 million followers on TikTok recently started a Triller account, that gained 1.2 million followers in two days.

When creators switch platforms, the followers will too. “The app will still be used, but we’re predicting a slow burn out of the app for consumers and creators using TikTok,” says Easton. “We’ll see this more when new features are added to these other platforms like Triller and Instagram Reels.”


Safer Schools Together (SST) provides Digital Threat Assessment training to Law Enforcement and School Districts across North America. All aspects of school safety and threats to schools now involve a social media or online component and it’s important to be prepared. To learn more about SST’s services, email [email protected].

What is Twitch?

What is Twitch?

Suggested Age Range: 16+

Twitch is a live stream video platform with a community primarily focused around video games.

In 2020, we are seeing Twitch continue to become increasingly popular with youth and is being used during and after school.

Safer Schools Together is here to walk you through everything You Need To Know about Twitch, its users, and the influencers that your kids may be following.

What is Twitch?

Twitch is a website where users can watch and broadcast live stream videos. The culture of the website is mainly based around video games, however there are other stream topics such as music, food, and general discussion. Twitch can be viewed in a browser or on Android and iOS mobile devices.

Some of the core features of Twitch are watching others live stream, broadcasting a live stream, an interactive chat system where users can use a text box to chat live with the streamer, paid monthly subscriptions to streamers, and private messaging.

Twitch is not new – it has been around since 2011 and has become increasingly popular ever since. The average user spends 105 minutes each day on the platform and there are 15 million daily active users – that’s 1.5 billion minutes spent on Twitch each day!

The average user is a male between the ages of 16 to 24 and lives in the United States of America.

What is Twitch?

Popular influencers on the site are referred to as ‘streamers’, also known as the users who broadcast frequently and consistently. Many Twitch streamers also upload their content to Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter.

Some of the most popular games to watch on Twitch include League of Legends, Counterstrike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, Minecraft, Valorant, Overwatch, Apex Legends, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, and more.

Video games

Twitch has a wide array of influencers (aka ‘streamers’) who are generally associated with live streaming video games. These streamers have followers and views just as on any other social application, however, the monetary revenue source for these streamers are a little more transparent than we typically see on other social media sites.

Any user can monetize their Twitch channel – revenue can be sourced from “tips/donations” which are given to the streamer by viewers to show their support. Sending a tip/donation can trigger an on-screen notification accompanied by a comment from the monetary contributor. Another stream of revenue can source from monthly Subscriptions. Subscriptions allow users to support the streamer on a monthly basis and grants them access to subscriber-only chats, custom emojis, and more. The payment system on Twitch is primarily Paypal, however Twitch also accepts credit cards and Amazon Prime memberships.

Pictured below from left to right are popular Twitch streamers: xQc, Summit1g, Pokimane, and Tyler1.

Twitch influencers

Any live streaming platform comes with its own host of potential dangers for youth. Because users and content creators are not moderated, there is free reign to say or stream anything from hate speech, violence, and other offensive material. Even channels dedicated to kid-friendly content can be a place for predatory behaviour or grooming.

Cancel Culture

Calling out Cancel Culture: How Online Exposures and Cancellations are Impacting Our Students

Cancel Culture

What is Cancel Culture?

J.K. Rowling, Kevin Hart, Johnny Depp, Ellen, Don Cherry—these people have all been called out and cancelled by their peers, the public, or both. Cancel culture is the practice of withdrawing support (or calling for the boycott) of companies and people after it is revealed that they have done something offensive. It has become a way for the public or a group of people to demand accountability. For many, it’s a way to take away the power of the offender. But while celebrities may lose a bit of work or a portion of their fan base as a result of being cancelled, the everyday person faces more devastating consequences.

This trend of calling out or cancelling someone is a new name for the old practice of boycotting.  The only difference now is that when someone is “cancelled” in an online context, it can have damaging outcomes for the person being cancelled.

Youth Trends

What does this have to do with what we’re seeing with students today? “Some youth have weaponized this trend,” says Safer Schools Together (SST) Senior Threat Analyst Trevor Dallow. “They’re running with this idea that they can ruin their peers’ reputations by exposing them.”

Dallow explains that exposure is revealing something private or controversial about someone with the intention of taking them down, causing humiliation and social ostracization.

We are seeing more of this on young peoples’ social media accounts. Students, rightly or wrongly, are being called out by their peers. In our work at SST, we’ve come across following cancel culture trends:

  • Friends exposing each other
  • Premeditated exposures: students will sit on a piece of content for weeks, waiting for the right time to call someone out
  • Students private posts or messages being made public
  • Hate / threats from strangers
  • Fabricated content to illicit negative reactions

The fact that we now have the ability to easily call out the injustices in the world and the prejudices of public figures and peers is a good and positive thing. But when hate is replaced by more hate, we’re not making any progress.

Collective Fight vs. Mob Mentality

A GQ magazine article entitled, Have We Taken Cancel Culture Too Far in 2020? justifiably asks, “But what happens when that discourse becomes one not focused on the larger issue, but one directed towards an individual? Does the collective fight for a greater good turn into a mere mob mentality, one that largely echoes the same principles of bullying? Or are we still all just trying to speak our truth, regardless of who happens to be in the way?”

Where We Go From Here

As we move forward into a society of pervasive cancel culture, our focus should shift to curating solutions: educating students on fact-checking tools, techniques, and giving them a general awareness that not everything they read or see online is factual.

“Just as students were introduced to All The Right Type as computers became standardized in schools, we should also be ensuring that students are expanding their knowledge of cancel culture and how to best avoid becoming a victim of this growing trend.” says SST Threat Analyst / Trainer, Steven MacDonald. “We have to educate our students so that cancelling someone doesn’t become used as an excuse for cyberbullying or cyber exclusion.”

With social media such a big part of all our lives, it’s more important than ever to be mindful about the ways we’re using it. This doesn’t mean censoring ourselves, but instead thinking before we add to our digital tattoos. Because like tattoos, what we post on the internet never really goes away.

Trauma Informed Return to School

What is Trauma-Informed Practice?

Trauma Informed Return to School

What is Trauma-Informed Practice?

Trauma-Informed Practice is a way for schools to allow learning to occur by supporting the brain-based skill deficits that occur when children and youth have experienced trauma.  When they experience ongoing stress, their brains can’t take in and later recall information; their executive functioning skills are compromised. Trauma impacted children, and youth have difficulty managing and expressing emotions, understanding causes and effects, and the signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Is it important for everyone to be trauma-informed?

If educators and other staff understand that certain behaviors are related to traumatic experiences they can shift the school environment and adjust classroom practices to respond effectively. With some simple strategies, teachers, education assistants, counselors, and other school staff can support students in creating environments where they can learn.

Is it important for students to be aware of Trauma Informed Practice?

It is helpful for students to be aware of how anxiety and trauma affect their well-being and understand that anxiety is normal and helpful in some situations. Fight, flight or freeze is the physiological response to stress or danger and can be uncomfortable when they don’t know it is happening. If students can sense when they’re escalating in their behavior or feelings, they can self-regulate and use coping strategies that work for them.

What are some symptoms of trauma educators might see upon return to school in light of the COVD-19 pandemic and physical distancing guidelines?

Some symptoms of trauma educators might see upon the students’ return to school include heightened anxiety, difficulty concentrating, poor memory, and intense emotions. Organizing, planning, starting and finishing tasks, understanding different points of view can also be difficult for students who have experienced trauma.

What can you do to support students’ return to school?

It is helpful to understand what type of trauma students may have been exposed to while physical distancing. Educators can support the students’ return to school by identifying signs of trauma, building relationships, and restoring school and classroom activities with necessary modifications. Trauma-informed practice will include teaching students how to be calm by modeling it and building regulating activities (e.g. deep breathing while hand washing or while others are completing the screening tool) into classroom routines. Remember that behavior is likely a result of hyper-arousal and requires a thoughtful and supportive response.


For more on this topic and implementing a trauma informed approach in your school, check out SST’s Trauma Informed Return to School training sessions:

For (Individual) Elementary School Educators
For (Group) Elementary School Educators

For (Individual) Secondary School Educators
For (Group) Secondary School Educators

For (Individual) Parents
For (Group) Parents

Mindful Hand Washing image

Mindful Hand Washing for Everyone – FREE download

Mindful Handwashing

As schools prepare for the return to physical spaces, it’s important to take the mental health of staff and students into consideration. Fear and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 can lead our students to have different emotional responses and mental health concerns.

The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Download and print this poster for each of your school’s hand washing stations—it can serve as an important reminder to incorporate mindfulness into your hand washing routine throughout the day. Routinely practicing mindfulness can help you remain calm and grounded as you go about your daily tasks.

Click below to download:

Mindful handwashing – Poster