Provide information on the training that is provided for staff to help students who have experienced trauma from fleeing from violence in their countries of origin. What would it cost to expand the training to all staff?

Question#: 43



Given the complexity of the issues affecting children fleeing violence from their home countries, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is working jointly with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and several nonprofit partners to meet the needs of children who have experienced severe trauma and violence.

Some MCPS staff with the most immediate needs for supplemental professional development have attended workshops to increase their awareness of the conditions that prompted unaccompanied youth to emigrate, the experiences that these youth encountered en route to the United States, and the challenges they may experience in reuniting with family members and returning to school after significant interruptions to their education. These workshops and presentations were delivered through collaborative relationships with community partners including Montgomery County government and nonprofit organizations, and at no cost to MCPS. Each presentation or workshop offered valuable information and insights into how to best support our international students who have experienced trauma. Much of the professional development is linked to El Joven Noble (The Noble Young Man) Curriculum, an evidence-based model used by DHHS. Some examples of these workshops and staff members that attended them include:

  • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) resource teachers, school-based ESOL counselors, and ESOL transition counselors attended a workshop by Mr. Luis Cardona, youth violence coordinator (DHHS), that introduced components of El Joven Noble and the Healing Circles techniques to MCPS staff members supporting students who are experiencing trauma in July 2014.
  • ESOL parent community coordinators and counselors attended a workshop provided by DHHS on August 22, 2014.
  • School counselors participated in a workshop session at the November 5, 2014, All Counselors Meeting offered by DHHS staff members.
  • A Forum on Central American International Student Experiences was held on Wednesday, November 19, 2014, in collaboration with Montgomery County Government and Mr. Roberto Escobar, director of education promotion, National Youth Institute of El Salvador, and MCPS students who recently immigrated from Central America. The forum was presented to about 150 MCPS staff members. Its focus was on enhancing understanding of the conditions that cause families from Central America to seek safety in the United States.
  • ESOL counselors attended the Families Reunite meeting on January 20, 2015, to learn more about supporting family reunification issues. This meeting was offered by Fairfax County Public Schools through Linkages to Learning.
  • ESOL staff members have invited Mr. Cardona to meet with secondary Multidisciplinary Educational Training and Support (METS) teachers to highlight characteristics and effective strategies to support students (scheduled for about 45 secondary METS teachers in April 2015).

There is additional information that is needed before an estimate of the cost of providing additional targeted professional development for a defined set of MCPS staff members can be developed. This information is related to the level of professional development required by MCPS staff members who fill various roles in supporting international students fleeing violence. We are fortunate that several staff members who have the most direct contact with these students are experienced in this work or participated in the initial professional development linked to trauma-informed support. The focus can now include cultural competence linked to trauma-informed supports.

Staff members from the Office of Special Education and Student Services have met with Mr. Cardona, DHHS, and Mr. Jerry Tello, director, National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute, to discuss the El Joven Noble curriculum. The curriculum has been implemented in some school districts in the country. It may be that implementation of this curriculum may be useful to a wider group of MCPS staff members. There would be costs to purchase and implement the curriculum and costs to prepare MCPS staff members to serve as trainers.

It is important to note, however, that the services that unaccompanied youth may require need not be delivered solely by MCPS. A range of appropriate services for unaccompanied minors is available through METS counselors, our nonprofit partners, and local government. Students who attend schools with Linkages to Learning and Wellness Center programs have onsite access to mental health supports or receive assistance with accessing services. Examples of some the services that already are provided to unaccompanied youth include the following:

  • DHHS contractors are facilitating transformational healing groups working with new arrivals.
  • Linkages to Learning continues to provide therapeutic support to children and their families; 136 children have been seen since July 2014.
  • The Victim Assistance and Sexual Assault Program is treating children who have experienced sexual victimization during their journey.
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health program staff continues to receive school referrals for students who require mental health supports.
  • The Crisis Center continues to serve children who have experienced trauma.

The International Student Services and Supports Work Group was formed and charged with providing further guidance on resources and ways of meeting the academic, social/emotional, and mental health needs of students who have experienced trauma, including costs associated with training. The group will make recommendations in the next few months.