South Coast

Transforming Schools to Help All Students Thrive


Geographically isolated and economically distressed, the South Coast had a high prevalence of childhood trauma and behavioral health issues even before the pandemic. Now, South Coast Education Service District’s innovative Trauma-Informed School System is transforming classrooms — and communities — through its emphasis on personal self-regulation, nonpunitive discipline and social-emotional learning.

Before COVID, all 10 rural school districts planned to pool state funds to create a pilot program in partnership with Dr. Nancy Golden and Sol Joye of Oregon Research Schools Network and Dr. Jeff Todahl at University of Oregon. After COVID, these funds dwindled even as the 10 districts’ 15,000 students faced growing isolation and stress.

“We realized we couldn’t wait for a pilot program before students came back in the fall,” says Curriculum Program Administrator Dawn Granger. Instead, the partners trained 50 staff — including nonteaching staff — as “student support specialists” to promote social-emotional adjustment and resilience across the districts.

“When life gets hard, school gets harder. We want a school where students can have a spot on campus to go and get support for the tough things in our lives.”


Now in its second year, the program is guided by the student-led Senate on Safe Schools, which recently created a multimedia micro-course to train educators and caregivers on trauma-informed practices. As Nancy says, “If we’re creating systems for kids, we want to hear from kids what’s really needed.”

Dawn credits OCF’s early funding with expanding this five-year project, and Nancy notes that OCF also provided valuable connections: “They brought us together with other people working on social-emotional learning, and that was incredibly helpful,” she explains. “We came up with a very transferable model, and now we can start working in other places.”