This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

School Leadership: The Journey from Trauma Aware to Trauma-Informed




Lawson, Jennifer

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Until recently, discussions around trauma-informed approaches and practices have been limited primarily to the fields of mental health and social services; however, “attention to childhood trauma and the need for trauma-informed care has contributed to the emerging discourse in schools related to teaching practices, school climate, and the delivery of traumarelated in-service and preservice teacher education” (Thomas et al., 2019, p. 423). Schools play an essential role in the lives of children and, therefore, must be equipped to recognize and respond to the diverse needs of the students they serve, especially since research suggests schools are often the primary source of mental health supports for children (Evans et al., 2014; Farmer et al., 2003). The purpose of this study was to explore trauma-informed school leaders’ experiences, perspectives, and practices in providing trauma-informed leadership necessary for the development and sustainability of a responsive, trauma-informed school environment. The researcher used a multiple case study approach to examine the similarities and differences within a sample of trauma-informed school leaders. This qualitative inquiry method allowed each school principal to be interviewed individually, using a pre-determined set of interview questions, but provided opportunities for authentic and open dialogue to evolve. The study found that trauma-informed school principals shared a variety of common themes associated with personal and professional experiences, trauma awareness, and a commitment to the paradigmatic shift, over time, required to provide a responsive and supportive trauma-informed school environment.