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How Schools Can Help Students Experiencing Racial Trauma

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With protests shining a light on deeply rooted racial inequities, school leaders are being asked to be on the lookout for racial trauma when students return to class.

Kadee Anstadt, superintendent for Washington Local Schools in Toledo, says they're preparing to make sure students feel safe on a number of levels. She says it's not just about keeping kids safe physically, but also emotionally and culturally.

Anstadt says this includes having more conversations with students and staff on how to address issues dealing with race.

Several other school administrators have mentioned similar goals in discussing the new school year.

Shantel Jackson is a licensed clinical professional counselor in Columbus who works with people experiencing racial trauma. As she explains, racial trauma is a form of race-based stress in reaction to discrimination.

Jackson says symptoms include students not acting like themselves, or not reaching their academic ability. Schools should have a system in place to allow students to report discrimination, she says.

"All too often, those things are ignored or dismissed," Jackson says. "I think that teachers can do their best to, when those things are reported to them, to act and do something about it."

Jackson says this issue can be difficult, especially for students of color in predominantly white schools.

"It does need to be addressed, and the student need to know that it's being addressed so they know that their voices are being heard," Jackson says.

Jackson recognizes the large amount of responsibilities teachers already have to take on, and says this is why it can be helpful for administrators to work with teachers on protocols to address these issues.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.