Facilitating Conversations About Race-Based Stress and Trauma

With many in the state and nation shaken by the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Louisville’s Breonna Taylor, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) issued guidance on June 3 on how districts can help facilitate conversations about race-based stress and trauma and how to help students, their parents and staff.

“We are seeing an outcry of grief and anger with many of our students, families and educators gathering to speak out about racial injustice,” Interim Education Commissioner Kevin C. Brown said June 3 in a presentation to the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE), where he announced the guidance.

He said KDE is committed to its core values of equity, achievement, collaboration and integrity, and as educators “we must commit to listen to those seeking to be heard and ensure that our young people of color are valued and safe in school and in the community.”

The document, “Guidance on How Districts Can Facilitate Conversations About Race-based Stress and Trauma,” was prepared by the Kentucky Department of Education’s cross-agency Trauma and Resilience Team, in partnership with colleagues from the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities.

It offers suggestions on what educators can do for students, fellow staff and their school community; how to support parents; and how to care for themselves. It also has links to several helpful resources.

KDE has been releasing a series of guidance documents for districts on the COVID-19 global pandemic, including planning for the social and emotional well-being of students and staff when schools reopen.

“KDE also believes that critical conversations about racial trauma and implicit bias are needed across Kentucky regardless of the racial makeup in our schools, districts or communities, because such events impact us all and we must address their emotional and traumatic consequences,” Brown said.

Also at the June 3 KBE meeting, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman asked board members to work with KDE – in partnership with schools and students across the state – to develop implicit bias training for students, teachers and school leaders.

“I think it is vitally important that we make sure every school district across Kentucky, every student and every educator has access to this training and these opportunities,” Coleman said. “I believe this implicit bias training is necessary across this Commonwealth.”

Brown noted that Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson released a statement on June 2 that said, in part, “we have an opportunity to emerge from this moment as a more just and equitable society.”

He said he agreed, and “not only do we have the opportunity, it is our obligation to do so.”

Brown said he hopes the guidance will be a first step in that direction.