Methods: A constructivist grounded theory multiple case study design was used to explore how teachers and school staff perceive, are impacted by, and respond to the manifestation of trauma derived from community violence exposure in three High Schools in Los Angeles County, California. Data were gathered from 23 in-depth semi structured interviews with 13 teachers and 10 school staff in Los Angeles County. Recruitment occurred during the stay at home orders from the COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter uprisings from May 2020 until February 2021. Grounded theory analysis of interviews with principals, teachers, and other school staff resulted in a conceptual framework that delineates how individual identification and responses to trauma are situated within and uphold institutional power.
Results: Findings draw from critical race theory and healing justice to inform a conceptual framework that details the nexus between teacher education programs, district policies, resources, staff biases, and collective well-being through four main themes: (1) teachers and school staff ultimately hold the power of defining what constitutes trauma; (2) individual experiences embedded within institutional factors encourage paternalism as the only response to trauma in schools; (3) this response leads to the demoralization of those caring for students; and (4) combined, each of these factors holds a cumulative impact on current and future students.
Conclusion & Implications: I conclude by discussing the need to identify institutional causes of trauma to understand better and meaningfully address the consistent (re)production of violence-related trauma in schools. Implications call for the transformation of harmful education practices throughout three levels: pre-service, district, and school. School social workers should lead anti-oppressive educational transformation by (1) addressing individual biases and racism by providing anti-racist training to all current and future school personnel, (2) utilize community-engaged methods to identify student and familial needs to create necessary healing practices in schools, and (3) advocate for policies that would reimagine the training, funding, and resources provided to schools.