This tip sheet provides a summary of the importance of trauma-informed approaches that can improve responses to challenging behaviors and facilitate improved relationships and connection both inside and outside of the school environment. 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.  

Understanding the prevalence and impacts of trauma allows educators to deepen their understanding of the root causes of challenging in-school behaviors. By identifying potential trauma exposure, the school responder model framework provides the pathway for students to receive necessary supports and services. The framework offers a therapeutic pathway for students with behavioral health conditions to disrupt unnecessary exclusionary discipline. By connecting with students and their families and the broader community, schools implementing school responder models can enhance their understanding of the trauma-related risk and protective factors that exist to best support students. 

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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