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RI EDUCATION

Sponsor of R.I. law requiring trauma training in schools decries delay

State Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vasssell accuses the R.I. Department of Education of dragging its feet: “I am frustrated because I know how much our kids need these changes right now.”

RI state Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, in the House chamber at the State House.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

PROVIDENCE — The sponsor of a new law that requires training teachers and staff to help students affected by trauma at all K-12 schools says the state Department of Education is delaying the work.

State Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, a teacher at E-Cubed Academy who represents House District 5 in Providence, accused RIDE this week of dragging its feet in following the Trauma Informed Schools Act.

The law, which was signed by Governor Daniel McKee on June 30, requires RIDE to set up a commission by Sept. 30 that would assist the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to implement the law, find funding, and review trauma-informed initiatives in schools across the state.

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The state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education is responsible for appointing people to the commission. RIDE spokesman Victor Morente said Thursday that the department is “actively working to develop a process to ensure a fair and inclusive selection” of people for the council’s consideration.

“We appreciate recommendations from the representative for potential members and will continue to work with her on this important work,” Morente said in an email. “It’s worth noting that the legislation was signed into law in July and recruiting and vetting strong candidates for this critical work takes time.”

Ranglin-Vassell pointed out that the law specifies who should be on the commission.

The 12 members must include: the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, or designee; a member of the R.I. school superintendents association; a leader of the state’s teachers’ unions; the state child advocate; a representative of a Rhode Island institution of higher education with expertise in child development, child mental and behavioral health, trauma-informed educational practices, or a related field; two members from youth-serving community-based organizations that provide direct services to youth who have, or are at high risk of experiencing trauma; a licensed clinical social worker, who primarily works with youth and/or families; a representative of the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; the executive director of Rhode Island Kids Count, or designee; the president of Adoption RI, or designee; and someone from an organization that engages and/or supports parents of school-aged children.

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“Three months is plenty of time to do this vetting for those who need to be selected,” Ranglin-Vassell said Friday.

“The Council on Elementary and Secondary Education doesn’t meet again until Dec. 20, and if the appointments even make it to that agenda, that means we’ve lost to close to half a school year before this work even begins, while trauma continues to impact the daily lives and learning of a generation of children who have been through so much,” she added. “I am frustrated because I know how much our kids need these changes right now. Foot-dragging at RIDE is harmful to them.”


Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits.