District wants to expand popular trauma-training classes

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

With training courses filled as soon as they are made available, the School District of Philadelphia and United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey are seeking ways to expand opportunities for teachers and other personnel to learn about trauma-informed care.

“Classes fill within a day of the e-blast I send out,” says Jody Greenblatt, the Stoneleigh Fellow in charge of coordinating training courses for the District.

“We have waiting lists for all the courses.”

To date, almost 200 teachers, counselors and other personnel have taken at least one course on a trauma-informed approach to school behavioral health, which shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” And 105 more are enrolled in the courses taught by the Institute for Family Professionals (IFP) in Fort Washington and financed by United Way.

Suzanne O’Connor, education manager at United Way, said, “We are exploring new opportunities for partnerships and additional support to expand our reach in this area."

IFP has been actively recruiting and training new trainers to expand as well, she said.

Greenblatt said that the District is also seeking foundation and other support to expand Mental Health First Aid training, which is basically a behavioral health version of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. So far, 745 District staff members, including teachers, counselors, and school police, have taken courses offered by the Philadelphia Mental Health Care Corp. and the city’s Department of Behavioral Health.

For teachers, Greenblatt said, it has been difficult to get the release time for the eight-hour course because “professional development hours are spoken for.” Additional funds might make it available for teachers to attend on their own time. They already do this for the IFP trauma courses, which they attend in the evenings and on weekends.