Video: Trauma Informed Responses to Behavior

Trauma Informed Responses to Behavior

Trauma-Informed Discipline Practices Guidance

Click here to download this Word resource to learn more about ACES and trauma.


Chapter 421 of the Public Acts of 2019 directed the Tennessee Department of Education to develop guidance on trauma-informed discipline practices that districts must use to develop discipline policies that:

  • balance accountability with an understanding of traumatic behavior;
  • teach school and classroom rules while reinforcing that violent or abusive behavior is not allowed at school;
  • minimize disruptions to education with an emphasis on positive behavioral supports and behavioral intervention plans;
  • create consistent rules and consequences; and
  • model respectful, non-violent relationships.

Balancing appropriate school discipline with school safety, classroom effectiveness, and positive outcomes for students can be a challenge. However, the benefits of using positive school discipline are many, including: students are more engaged and on task; classrooms are managed well; parents feel welcomed and are engaged; office disciplinary referrals, as well as suspensions and expulsions, reduced; academic achievement, attendance, and graduation rates improved.1

In response to this directive, the department has conducted an extensive study of current research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma, the impact of trauma on classroom behavior, guiding principles in developing positive school discipline, and best practices for implementation to promote successful school discipline. The following are the results of that research, recommended guiding principles for developing trauma sensitive discipline policies, and best practices to utilize when developing discipline policies.