Guidance for Trauma Screening in Schools: A Product of the Defending Childhood State Policy Initiative provides an overview of the prevalence and impact of trauma among children and adolescents, the role of screening and assessment in the identification of trauma, school-based screening considerations, and how to link screening data with potential interventions within schools. 

Addressing and responding to trauma is essential to the mission and purpose of schools. The need for thorough and accurate trauma assessment, including screening and assessment measures, has grown in recent years. Despite a widening array of available criteria for the assessment of trauma, administrating these measures within school settings is still developing, with little evidence supporting the utility of these practices within schools. Trauma screening data can be used to determine the condition of a given classroom or grade. School mental health professionals, such as a school psychologist or school counselor, can use assessments to determine how to structure time, resources, and student support throughout the year.  

Key Summary Points: 

  • Screening for exposure to adversity can serve as a useful tool to determine potential risk for stress or trauma among students in schools 
  • Always obtain active parental informed consent for screening 
  • Screening tools administered to students may be more accurate than other informants (e.g., teachers, parents), though must be provided at a developmentally appropriate level 
  • Outcomes of screenings can help identify the severity or degree of need in a school community and help direct resources to support traumatized students 
  • Schools should consider existing resources and processes to address identified needs prior to implementing trauma screening in schools 
  • Supports should be provided through a multi-tiered system of supports framework, with a trauma-informed approach and implementation of more targeted, intensive interventions as necessary 
  • Individual services should not be determined solely through the screening process; follow-up assessment and individualized determination of needs are critical 

The National Center for Youth Opportunity and Justice (NCYOJ) originally developed and maintained this resource. The NCYOJ was operated by Policy Research, Inc. and operated from 2001 to 2022 and was formerly known as the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. The NCYOJ improved life opportunities for youth through systems and practice improvement initiatives.  

This resource should be viewed as a reference document. It has not been updated since its publication. In addition, this document has not been made 508 compliant. If you would like a 508 compliant version of this document, please email 

This resource was first shared in 2016.