Trauma, LGBT struggles discussed

Trauma informed schools and an overview of the struggles faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students were discussed at an Ector County Independent School District Student Health Advisory Council meeting Thursday.

According to information presented by Executive Director of Guidance and Counseling Nancy Vanley, any experience that leaves a person feeling hopeless, helpless, fearing for their life or survival, their safety, or the life, safety or survival of a loved one is a trauma.

Vanley said the experiences can be real or perceived. Some examples of trauma are neglect, physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, natural disaster and incarceration of a loved one.

She said she would like to have more people trained to recognize students who have experienced trauma and be able to teach students coping skills.

Untreated trauma can lead to a variety of academic impacts such as lower GPA, decreased reading ability, learning deficiencies, increased school absences and dropout rate and increased suspensions and expulsions.

But, Vanley’s presentation said trauma informed schools focused on social and emotional learning increases performance on standardized tests and grades, leads to improved school climate and other benefits.

Director of Nursing Services Laura Mathew talked about some of the insights gathered from high school students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. In material distributed to SHAC members, it says students said their main difficulties resulted from telling their parents they were LGBT. Parents often don’t know how to respond and some condemn their behavior denying them the support they need, her report said.

“Students described feeling more supported at school than at home at times. Their main support came from other students who would simply allow them to talk and who would listen and accept them no matter what they said,” the report said.

SHAC members voted to ask that ECISD staff view a video training on treating LGBT students respectfully. The request would be for the 2018 school year.