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  • ncs3connect

Addressing the Trauma of Racism

Caryn Curry, LCSW

Center for Childhood Resilience

Racism is a social determinant of health and a source of trauma for too many Black individuals and families in our communities, and Black students in our schools. At Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Center for Childhood Resilience (CCR), we are committed to supporting schools to mitigate the impacts of racism on students of color, as well as recognize and dismantle school practices, structures, and systems that perpetuate racism and inequity. This work is critical to developing trauma-informed, healing-centered, school environments where all students have the same opportunity to thrive.

At CCR we know 3 things:

1. Every child deserves a safe environment, caring adults,and the skills to thrive;

2. too many children aren’t getting it, which is a public health crisis; and

3. we work every day to make a difference by equipping adults and organizations with the tools to effectively address this crisis. The American Public Health Association has declared what many have experienced for some time; racism is a public health crisis. Through training, consultation, and professional learning communities, CCR is building school and educator capacity to address this crisis.

CCR’s racism and inequity work with schools aims to engage the hearts and minds of educators. Recognizing that awareness is the first step toward change, we partner with educators to raise their awareness of history, current realities, and self. Educators learn about present-day manifestations of slavery and other historical traumas that Black and Brown people have endured for generations. We introduce three levels of racism: institutional, personally mediated, and internalized; and ask educators to consider how these levels manifest in their buildings. We ask how racism and inequity impact safety, healthy relationships, and teaching emotion regulation - all key components of trauma-informed care. Schools must address these and other critical questions to begin to dismantle systems, structures, and practices that continue to harm Black and Brown students. Creating trauma-informed, healing-centered environments for all students necessitates directly addressing racism and inequity in schools, regardless of the school or district’s demographics. History has demonstrated that dismantling racism and inequity in schools can be more than a lifelong endeavor; after all, schools are microcosms of our society.

However, increasingly, research and practice are also revealing what it takes to create schools that provide an equitable opportunity for all students to thrive.

CCR continues to grow our efforts to build schools’ capacity to mitigate the harmful impacts of the trauma of racism on students, structurally and personally; and create school communities that honor the strengths and resilience that Black and Brown children bring to school every day. CCR is proud to be partnering with Alliance for Prevention and Inclusion and the National Center for School Mental Health to establish the National Center for Safe Supportive Schools (NCS3). The NCS3 aims to integrate best practices of school mental health, trauma-informed and healing-centered practice, and cultural responsiveness and equity to provide knowledge and skills for schools to create optimal environments for learning and well-being for all students. CCR looks forward to learning from our partners and continuing to contribute this very important work on behalf of all school-aged children.


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