Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress
In the spring of 2021, SHB 1363: 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.
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.
Under RCW 28A.300.825, OSPI has been tasked with sharing resources and assessments to prevent and respond to STS.
Alliance for a Healthier Generation
We are excited to announce our partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation! A statewide team of experts curated a list of resources and developed a Washington state specific assessment to assist districts in the implementation of HB 1363. Please visit WA Educators Secondary Traumatic Stress Resources to view them. Please note, you will be prompted to create a free account.
SmartHealth is an online wellness program that supports your whole person well-being. It is included in your SEBB benefits at no cost to you. Join activities that support all of you, such as managing stress, building resiliency, and adapting to change.