Using Positive Behavior Supports at a Trauma-Informed School

Carl Sumi (bio) discusses how the practices of PBS and trauma-informed schools mesh.

Schoolwide PBS is a framework for operating schools. It's changing social culture and supporting students at all levels. You can be a trauma-informed school within a schoolwide PBS framework. You can be a trauma-informed school outside of that, but it works very well. Schoolwide PBS again it's not a one-size-fits-all approach. It's different, and it can look different in every school. The basic tenets are underscored in each school.

So a trauma-informed school or a school that has trauma-informed practices, they support students at the universal level as well, making sure that all students are healthy and safe, and they could do universal screenings. And that's something that supported in schoolwide PBS as well, universal screenings for exposure to trauma.

At the secondary level of prevention, if students are having problems, they can provide interventions that support them again, or at the tertiary level like CBITS (Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools) or a trauma-focused CBT, or different therapies that are either at a group or individual level. A trauma-informed school would be a school that has a full staff that understands listening to students, not, "Why did they do the certain behavior?" but, "What's going on?" Not, "What's wrong with you?" but, "Why did you do that?"

It's very important to teach students the behaviors you want to see, and that's also a tenet in PBS. It's very important to listen to what they've got to say, look at data. So all those things really, really do mesh nicely. You're not going to learn about trauma-informed practices at a schoolwide PBS training, but if you wanted to have your school be trauma-informed, it fits well within a PBS framework.

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Excerpted from an interview at CBITS Summit 2013 in Santa Monica, CA.

Dr. Sumi's work is fully funded by United States Department of Education Grant Number R324A110027, a $3,383,527 grant awarded to SRI International. The views and conclusions expressed are those of the presenter and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of the USDE or the U.S. Government.


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More From Carl Sumi (bio)

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  • Getting Started With Positive Behavior Supports

  • Resource Mapping Identifies Time for Positive Behavior Supports

  • Using Positive Behavior Supports Data to Make Decisions