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Home » Student Success » Health & Safety » Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress

Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress

Contact Information

Ella DeVerse
Program Supervisor School Safety Center


In the spring of 2021, SBH1363: Addressing Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) in the K-12 workforce was passed into legislation. This legislation acknowledges the significant toll STS has on educators and, subsequently students, and focuses on the adoption of policy and procedures so that districts and schools can take meaningful steps in supporting their staff’s health and well-being. 

The Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development defines Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) as "…the emotional distress that arises when someone vicariously experiences the traumatic experiences of another individual. Sometimes known as compassion fatigue, the toll of tending to someone's painful experiences can create very real symptoms in caregivers, including teachers.“

Ensuring the wellbeing of educators is a critical component to sustaining an effective workforce and promoting student outcomes. By implementing policy through strategic use of professional learning and a continuous improvement process, districts and schools can reduce staff turnover, increase student outcomes, and model healthy behaviors for the entire school community.

Certificated and classified staff, like many others in helping professions, tend to experience STS at greater rates than those in other professions due to the persistent exposure to and expectation of caretaking for students with emotionally painful experiences. In other words, STS can be an outcome of what is an educators greatest asset: they care deeply about their students and families. Signs and symptoms of STS vary but when left unaddressed may lead to staff turnover, burnout, adult chronic absenteeism and health issues which negatively impacts everyone in the school community. 

Legislative Requirements


Establish a district-wide workforce mental health committee which is directed to:

  • Share STS, stress management, and other mental health resources from OSPI, ESD and SEBB (HCA)
  • Share links to STS self-assessment tools and associated resources
  • Report to district school board annually on district workforce mental health committee activities
  • Conduct regular assessments of district and school level implementation inclusive of input form workforce
  • Provide appropriate resources and training
  • Adopt, or amend if necessary, policies and procedures that, at a minimum, incorporate all the elements.
  • Districts must periodically review their policies and procedures for consistency with updated versions of the model policy and procedure.

WSSDA has developed and posted a model policy and procedure to prevent and address STS in the workforce. 


OSPI has been tasked with creating this page to share resources and assessments to prevent and respond to STS.  To this end, we are excited to announce we have partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, national experts on educator well-being.  For a list of resources to support your implementation of HB1363, please visit WA Educators Secondary Traumatic Stress Resources.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, in partnership with OSPI and other stakeholders are developing an assessment specific to HB1363. This assessment is currently being built out. In the meantime, please utilize the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Thriving Schools Integrated Assessment which specifically covers educator wellbeing. Please note that you will be prompted to create a free account.