Date of Conferral





Social Work


So`nia Gilkey


Research shows that trauma-informed practices in schools can increase student performance and well-being. School social workers are well-suited to bring these practices to their system but are most successful when partnering with public-school superintendents. The purpose of this generic qualitative study was to understand public-school superintendents’ perceptions of trauma-informed school assumptions and principles. The study was guided by four assumptions for trauma-informed care, six principles for trauma-informed schools, ecological systems theory, and empowerment theory. Research questions were designed to ask participants about their experiences of trauma in their schools, their perceptions of the assumptions and principles, the benefits and challenges of implementation, and their role in empowering others to use such practices. Data were collected from semi¬–structured interviews with eight participants who were superintendents in rural western North Carolina school systems. Themes and subthemes were developed through hand coding and thematic analysis of the data. Final themes were (a) schools as an ecosystem for trauma, (b) community conditions, (c) value shifts in schools and communities, (d) agreement with the assumptions and principles, (e) complex and multifaceted roles, (f) micro and macro challenges (g) micro and macro benefits and (h) using empowering leadership. The findings of this study have implications for positive social change by potentially leadings school social workers to develop partnerships with superintendents to develop or strengthen trauma-informed practices in their school systems to create systemic change that better supports the use of trauma-informed practices in school districts.