By Simona Goldin & Debi Khasnabis, Education Week, February 19, 2020
Science has a pernicious history of doing violence to communities of color. Examples abound: Consider the infamous Tuskegee study in which the U.S. Public Health Service spent decades withholding treatment from hundreds of African-American men suffering from syphilis. Or consider more recent research that shows that doctors, informed by discredited theories of racial difference, are significantly less likely to prescribe pain medication to Black patients than White patients with equivalent ailments. In education as well, science can be used against communities of color.
As teacher-educators who support teachers in addressing systemic inequality and its impact on children in schools, we are frequently asked about trauma-informed teaching. Teachers and school leaders name serious challenges: children flipping over desks, screaming at teachers, running out of the school. They tell us, "We've been hearing about trauma-informed practice. Please, just tell us what to do!"
We've responded with a desire to be of service but also with trepidation. Trauma-informed practice is a powerful but incomplete tool. Powerful because it helps teachers understand the children in their classrooms and bring individualized care and attention to build resilience. Incomplete in dangerous ways because it is rarely paired with attention to naming and addressing systemic injustice and racism. We also can't help but notice that most of these pleas are in reference to children of color.