KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa., April 17, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Agora Cyber Charter School announces that it has officially been designated as a Trauma-Informed School by the Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc., the first such designation for a cyber school in the country. Among the training and systems put in place leading to this designation, Agora's Student Assistance Program created a crisis room designed to meet the daily needs of any student going through a crisis and has already received over 1,100 referrals over the course of the school year.
"We could not be prouder of this designation and love that we are a leader in this crucial space," said Rich Jensen, Chief Academic Officer, Agora Cyber Charter School. "The model of a cyber school is such that a lot of students are more open about their personal lives because they are behind a computer. In an online environment, it may be easier for them to say that they aren't coming to class due to a mental health issue, or family trouble, or any other number of personal reasons. Our goal is to help teachers identify those students so that we can direct them to receive the help and guidance they need to navigate a difficult time."
The crisis room is manned all day by two counselors during school hours who work to understand the issues at hand and create a plan to aid the student. This could mean additional resources within Agora, or the inclusion of outside agencies. Knowing that trauma can shut the door to other parts of the brain, responsiveness is crucial and the team works quickly to address potential situations. In addition to the crisis room, Agora has gone over and beyond in gaining this designation. This includes an in-house social worker, a position rarely held in cyber education. The social worker creates the protocol which allows students facing trauma situations to receive not only the emotional support needed, but the academic support as well.
"Throughout the course of the school year, we are informed about many different types of trauma that our students are facing," says Jennifer Barrios, Agora Social Worker. "We work from there to make sure that we are sensitive to their situations, that they can succeed in our model, and that we're not triggering them in any way. Even how a student is spoken to or reprimanded in an academic setting has to be taken into consideration. We're constantly encouraging teachers to use strength-based comments when reporting on a student's work. Mentioning that the student 'attempted the test' rather than 'did not complete the test' can make a difference in the way the child and parent perceives the teacher's feedback."
Many of Agora's 7,000+ students choose a cyber option due to issues that they are facing in their personal lives. Whether they were bullied in school, live in an unsafe area, or have issues that make it difficult to attend in-person on a regular basis, cyber school allows them to learn in an environment where they feel safe.
"Kids cannot learn if we don't address the things in the past that interfere with learning," says Gina Sczepkowski, Coordinator of Agora's Family Coaches. "Addressing what is going on in their lives and introducing techniques to help kids focus and learn will allow them to thrive. It's a missing puzzle piece to education as a whole. We were an educational leader with our family coach program, and we love being on the cutting edge of something you will most likely see become the standard in the future. Soon everyone will understand the importance of being 'trauma-informed.'"
The school is able to take a comprehensive look at student well-being due in large part to its team of Family Coaches. These staff members serve as the first link between families and teachers and have a deep understanding of the student's personal life. The school has trained all family coaches to be a line of communication between for student in crisis, and by August 2019 every Agora faculty and staff member will be trained.
SOURCE Agora Cyber Charter School