A task force comprised of South Dakota stakeholders representing school and behavioral health professionals provided 1) recommendations for universal trauma screening and support systems in school settings and their communities and 2) a suite of tools to support implementation of strategies aiming to:

  • prevent problems from occurring,
  • provide selective strategies to assess risk factors and protective factors to prevent problems from progressing, and
  • recommend intensive interventions aiming to reduce the intensity and duration of symptoms 1

Effective screening for traumatic events requires that school-based professionals consider this prevention framework to determine best practices in assessment and intervention.


(credit: Dr. Kari Oyen, PhD, LP, NCSP)

The pyramid below represents the strategies a South Dakota community and school district can adopt to create a comprehensive approach to preventing and responding to childhood trauma and mental health issues. The strategies include creating a trauma-informed communities and schools, universal trauma screening, and referring children and families for targeted and/or wrap-around services.


  • Over 20% of students in public schools have a diagnosable mental health disorder that warrant additional supports 2
  • Of the few students who receive support (approximately 20% of students), over 70% of those students receive interventions in a public school setting1.
  • To effectively engage in prevention efforts, school must engage in frameworks that implement strategies for all students at a universal level, strategies for some students at a strategic level of intervention, and intensive strategies for a few students.
  • Prevention frameworks estimate that universal prevention strategies are effective for 80-90% of student populations, strategic interventions are effective for 10-15% of students, and intensive interventions are needed for 1-5% of student populations.


This work is only possible because of the significant contributions from scholars and practitioners in the field who work tirelessly to help children who have experienced trauma be more successful in school.  For more information regarding this topic, access information in the hyperlinks above, read the articles by the researchers in the field as cited, and refer to the Defending Childhood State Policy Initiative By Drs. Eklund and Rossen (Guidance for Trauma Screening in School).

CPCM also acknowledges professionals from the following organizations who have provided input to this recommendation:  University of South Dakota, SD Department of Education, SD Department of Social Services – Behavioral Health and Child Protection Services Divisions, SD School Administrator Association, SD Education Association, Associated School Boards of SD, Avera Health, Sanford Health, Children’s Home Society, and Lewis & Clark Behavioral Health.


1Barrett, S. Eber, L., & Weist, M. (2012). Advancing education effectiveness:  Interconnecting school mental health and school-wide positive behavior support.  University of Oregon.
Bruhn, A., Woods-Groves, S., & Huddle, S. (2014). A preliminary investigation of emotional and behavioral screening practices in K-12 schools. Education and Treatment of Children 37(4), 611-634. doi:10.1353/etc.2014.0039.
Chafouleas, S. M., Kilgus, S. P., & Wallach, N. (2010). Ethical Dilemmas in School-Based Behavioral Screening. Assessment for Effective Intervention35(4), 245–252. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534508410379002
Eklund, K. & Rossen, E. (2016). Guidance for Trauma Screening in Schools:  A product of the defending childhood state policy initiative. Delmar, NY: The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice
Eklund, K. R., Rossen, E., Koriakin, T., Chafouleas, S. M., & Resnick, C. (2018). A systematic review of trauma screening measures for children and adolescents. School Psychology Quarterly33(1), 30-43. https://doi.org/10.1037/spq0000244
Maki, K. & Lemmer, S. (Spring, 2018). Universal Screenings in Schools.  A presentation at the University of South Dakota. Vermillion, SD.
Shemesh, E., Newcorn, J. H., Rockmore, L., Shneider, B. L., Emre, S., Gelb, B. D., & Yehuda, R. (2005). Comparison of parent and child reports of emotional trauma symptoms in pediatric outpatient settings. Pediatrics, 115, e582–e589. doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2201
Stover, C. S., Hahn, H., Im, J. J. Y., & Berkowitz, S. (2010). Agreement of parent and child reports of trauma exposure and symptoms in the early aftermath of a traumatic event. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 2, 159–168. doi:10.1037/a0019156
2Whitcomb, S.A. (2018). Behavioral, social, and emotional assessment of children and adolescents (5th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.