Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress


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Contact Information

Bridget Underdahl
Assistant Director, Mental Health Systems

Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) is the emotional distress that arises when someone vicariously experiences the traumatic experiences of another individual. Sometimes known as compassion fatigue, the toll of tending to someone's painful experiences can create very real symptoms in caregivers, including teachers.

Substitute House Bill (SHB) 1363 and RCW 28A.300.825 acknowledges the significant toll STS has on educators, and subsequently students, and focuses on the adoption of policy and procedures so that districts and schools can take meaningful steps in supporting their staff’s health and well-being. By implementing policy through the strategic use of professional learning and a continuous improvement process, districts and schools can reduce staff turnover, increase student outcomes, and model healthy behaviors for the entire school community.

WA Educators STS Resources

Certificated and classified staff, like many others in helping professions, tend to experience STS at greater rates than those in other professions due to the persistent exposure to and expectation of caretaking for students with emotionally painful experiences. In other words, STS can be an outcome of what is an educator's greatest asset: they care deeply about their students and families. Signs and symptoms of STS vary but when left unaddressed may lead to staff turnover, burnout, adult chronic absenteeism and health issues which negatively impacts everyone in the school community.

Through a partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and a statewide team of experts, we have curated a list of WA Educators Secondary Traumatic Stress Resources and developed a Washington state-specific assessment to assist districts in the implementation of requirements under state law.

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Legislative Requirements

Establish a district-wide workforce mental health committee which is directed to:

  • Share STS, stress management, and other mental health resources from OSPI, ESD and SEBB (HCA)
  • Share links to STS self-assessment tools and associated resources
  • Report to district school board annually on district workforce mental health committee activities
  • Conduct regular assessments of district and school level implementation inclusive of input form workforce
  • Provide appropriate resources and training
  • Adopt, or amend if necessary, policies and procedures that, at a minimum, incorporate all the elements.
  • Districts must periodically review their policies and procedures for consistency with updated versions of the model policy and procedure.

Workforce Secondary Traumatic Stress Advisory Committee

Implementation Materials