Date of Award

Spring 4-30-2024

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Nicholas Sauers, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Olgetree, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Sheryl Moss, Ph.D.


Student trauma in the educational setting is a factor which directly impacts student achievement and well-being. Trauma studies focus on implementing trauma-informed practices and programs from the student or fidelity perspective. However, there is limited research on implementing trauma-informed practices from the perspective of the principal and leadership team. This qualitative study investigates the perceptions of a principal and leadership team when implementing trauma-informed practices. The following research questions guided this study: (1) What are the principal’s and leadership team’s perceptions of organizational support and barriers to support when implementing trauma-informed practices in a middle school? (2) What are the principal’s and leadership team’s perceptions of the school’s successes and challenges when implementing trauma-informed practices? The single case study investigated the perspectives of eight participants who serve as school building-level leaders in an urban Title I middle school with a historically marginalized student population in a large metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States. The study used the conceptual framework of the Sanctuary Model to ground the study, and the data collection from the semi-structured interviews focused on the Seven Commitments. I used a reflexive journal throughout the study to record my thoughts and reactions during the interview. At the same time, the participants recounted their perceptions, identifying their school’s efforts to reduce biases and increase support for trauma-impacted students. The interview data were analyzed based on perceptions, praxis, and emerging themes related to implementing trauma-informed practices.

Two main themes emerged from the data analysis. 1)Leaders provide trauma-informed grade-level professional learning communities based on three core focus areas for professional development. 2) Leaders provide systemic processes and schoolwide programming focused on trust, communication, and shared decision-making. The resulting subthemes were personal biases and triggers, trauma identification, instructional understandings, PBIS, Second Step, and mentoring are essential for creating a trauma-informed culture and climate. Programming and training for new and experienced teachers are the catalysts for establishing a trauma-informed culture and climate based on mentoring and modeling using community and school-based resources. During the data collection process, the participants provided information that helped guide implications for building and district leaders interested in becoming trauma-informed. A key implication is that schools and districts must work together to make systemic and schoolwide changes in professional learning communities, professional development training, and schoolwide programming focused on trust, communication, and shared decision-making.


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