This tip sheet provides an overview of trauma to help educators understand its prevalence and how it can manifest in student behaviors. It also emphasizes the importance of incorporating a trauma-informed perspective into the design, implementation, and evaluation of school responder models (SRMs). Youth who have been exposed to trauma, those with mental health conditions, and those with substance use disorders are more likely to be subject to exclusionary discipline policies in school. Exclusionary discipline contributes to these youth having higher rates of juvenile court system involvement. The SRM is a school-based, behavioral health response model that seeks to disrupt unnecessary suspension, expulsion, and arrest for students, particularly those with unidentified, unmet, or under met behavioral health needs.  

Teachers, administrators, school resource officers, and other school personnel interacting daily with students will benefit from an enhanced understanding of trauma, behavioral health needs, and effective responses to student behaviors. This enhanced awareness can help ensure that the school’s adults are better prepared to make decisions that set students on a pathway of accountability and support in response to challenging behaviors. Exclusionary discipline and educational disengagement increase the risk of juvenile and adult criminal legal involvement. These factors have collectively led school districts to seek out approaches such as the SRM framework to better address students’ needs, help affected students avoid unnecessary entanglement in the juvenile court system, and increase participation in effective, trauma-informed behavioral health treatments. 

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 2014. 

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