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Connecticut educators say teachers need trauma-informed training

Students get off the bus at Prospect Elementary School Tuesday. Buses were sparsely populated, and many parents chose to drive their children to school.
Ali Oshinskie
Connecticut Public Radio

In the wake of the attack on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, teachers nationwide are once again dealing with the collective trauma of a deadly school shooting. Connecticut educators say teachers need more trauma-informed training.

“Teachers also need more access to mental health training to help identify students who need help,” said Joslyn DeLancey, vice president of the Connecticut Education Association. “We want to be very cautious when we talk to students about [school shootings], and we want to do it right.”

Connecticut’s legislature approved a children’s mental health bill this spring that would bolster school services, including adding more mental health specialists, expanding school-based health centers and hiring more social workers.

DeLancey said that is a major step in the right direction, but teachers still need support on how to talk about trauma.

“As educators, I think the first thing that we’re trying to figure out is how to comfort each other – how to make each other know that we care about each other and that there are supports in place,” she said. “There’s a lot of bravery out there. It’s a shame that teachers have to be this brave to go to work every day, but they do.”

DeLancey, who is also a Darien fifth-grade teacher, said it’s no secret that teachers are suffering because the burden of having to keep students safe both emotionally and physically has gotten heavier.

She recalled Colorado’s Columbine High School shooting in 1999, where 12 students and one teacher were killed.

“That was the first time I thought, ‘Wow, we should be worried about being in our buildings,’” she said. “And it hasn’t really changed. It’s only gotten worse.”

The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, called for the nation to “stand together to stop the scourge of gun violence in our schools and communities and protect our students and educators in schools across the country.”

To keep teachers and students safe in schools is a community effort, said DeLancey.

“Acting is the only option – school districts do have a responsibility for safety protocols, but we still need a larger national effort to have smarter gun legislation, otherwise this will just continue to happen,” she said.