Is the problem the problem—or is the problem the world itself, whose troubling realities the exercise merely reflects? My colleagues and I asked ourselves this question about an exercise centered on Title IX that we had used in our first-year Lawyering Skills courses as the capstone project of the year.

On the one hand, the problem is beautifully designed. Title IX law is complex and requires students to make strategic judgments about how to organize and persuasively present their arguments, but it is not so complex that a first-year student cannot become fluent in it. Students on either side of the motion face challenges in persuading the court but could plausibly prevail. The project also raises important questions about the nature of the law and the lawyer’s professional role. In short, it is a perfect exercise at first blush.[1]

On the other hand, there was a problem. One that many challenging and effective legal writing exercises share. Many, perhaps most, students disliked the topic. They expressed discomfort with having to engage with it in their work and use cases that they felt had been unjustly decided. Certainly, a large number of the students representing the defendant disliked their client. While I was sympathetic to these students’ unease, I did not view it as a reason to jettison the exercise. The more significant problem was that another set of students reported that the project had raised their past experiences of sexual violence or abuse and, in some cases, activated symptoms of trauma. Trauma is distinct from discomfort, and these students’ trauma responses to the problem did warrant scrapping it going forward.

This seemingly simple solution was complicated, however, by the fact that we are professors of law. The law regulates conduct and circumstances that are almost always messy and sometimes brutal. The Title IX exercise merely presented a particularly acute example of a common dilemma for legal writing professors who want to develop students’ capacity for nuanced and complex analysis and writing. To help students develop essential competencies, it is necessary to expose them to challenging and troubling legal topics. In practice, lawyers are confronted with (and their analysis limited by) law that does not match their views of what the law should be as a matter of fairness, logic, or morality. Almost constantly, lawyers must navigate differences in how they, their clients, their audiences, and their opponents view what the law should be.[2] In order to learn how to face these kinds of challenges, students must be exposed to them. Legal writing problems on hard topics allow students to practice meeting the challenges that they will face in practice, in a context in which there is space to reflect and discuss their experiences under the guidance of faculty.[3] If the likelihood of activating a trauma response precludes a topic from serving as the basis of a problem, many of the most pedagogically useful and socially salient topics are off the table.[4]

And yet, we cannot ignore trauma. When an exercise tips a student over the edge from discomfort into a state of trauma, that student stops learning and is denied the opportunity to develop as a lawyer.[5] The student is also profoundly harmed on a personal level. Student trauma can be sparked by myriad aspects of a problem, including its fact pattern, the caselaw that students encounter in their research, and classroom discussions about the project. So how should legal writing professors proceed? How do we teach what we need to teach without compromising our students’ well-being and their ability to learn?

This article argues that legal writing professors should not shy away from teaching topics that make students uncomfortable or even risk activating a trauma response. Indeed, to an extent, we have a professional responsibility to make students uncomfortable as part of providing them with opportunities to develop as lawyers. However, we have an equal responsibility to guard against and mitigate harmful trauma responses in students. The objective should not be—and from a practical standpoint, it cannot be—to eliminate all sensitive or difficult material from the curriculum. Rather, professors must be thoughtful as to how and when we use topics that may ignite trauma and take affirmative steps to mitigate the negative impact of trauma on students. More pointedly, the time has come for legal writing professors and professors across the legal academe to apply the well-developed body of trauma informed pedagogy (TIP) literature to their teaching.

There is a longstanding, pressing need for trauma informed practices in legal writing education. Trauma has always been in our classrooms. There is “nothing new about the presence of traumatized [learners] in our schools. Often without realizing it, teachers have been dealing with trauma’s impact for generations.”[6] Professors bring it in through the course material, and students carry it in with them along with all their other life experiences. As many as ninety-four percent of college undergraduate students report exposure to at least one traumatic event over the course of their life.[7] For those learners “who bring to their classroom a history of abuse, neglect, developmental chaos, or violence” those histories inevitably “influence[] their capacity to learn.”[8]

We can only expect trauma’s presence in the classroom to grow, based on our collective experience over the past few years.[9] We all have experienced a series of seemingly unrelenting and compounding crises, including a global pandemic; a reckoning over structural racism and white supremacy; a powder keg disguised as a federal election; challenges to the rule of law; and on-going discussions of sex-based violence and discrimination sparked by the #metoo movement. Each of these national events raise topics that are salient to students’ legal education and have a place in the classroom. However, each of these topics also has the potential to elicit a trauma response.

This article proposes a trauma informed framework for developing course problems of all kinds, from quick classroom exercises to semester-long simulations and writing projects.[10] Its approach is informed by the TIP literature from other disciplines in which educators also prepare students for careers serving others and can expect to encounter others’ trauma, including social work, medicine, education, and theology. It also engages with the trauma informed lawyering scholarship used extensively in clinical teaching and the research of traumatologists,[11] such as Judith Herman, Bruce Perry, and Bessel van der Kolk to consider how trauma informed pedagogy should be adapted to the task of legal problem design.

In writing about trauma in the context of problem design, this article uses the terms “trauma topics” or “trauma-based problems” as shorthand for course work that requires students to engage with fact patterns or law that describe traumatic events with sufficient detail to evoke a trauma response in students. These definitions are intentionally elastic because trauma is a highly unpredictable and individualized experience. The same traumatic experience may have very different effects on different people.[12] Likewise, educators can expect variation in the intensity of students’ responses to trauma topics—variation both from student-to-student with respect to a topic and from topic-to-topic for a particular student.

Because one must first understand trauma before accounting for it, Part I of this article provides a primer on trauma, summarizing the scientific research on trauma’s causes and effects, with a particular focus on trauma’s negative implications for learning. Part II reviews and synthesizes the TIP literature from various fields, with a particular focus on scholarship by educators in fields that like law require some engagement with trauma topics such as social work, medicine, and religious education. Part III argues that contrary to the critique that an emphasis on “safe spaces” impedes student learning by shielding them from the complexities of the real-world, TIP’s emphasis on student safety creates courageous spaces that foster nuanced conversations about hard topics and advance the learning of all students, whether they are directly affected by trauma or not. Part IV adapts the TIP scholarship to the legal education context to propose a step-by-step, trauma-informed approach to legal problem design.

I. The Discomfort/Trauma Distinction

A lawyer needs good judgment. She[13] must be able to differentiate between her client’s goals, her personal views, and her audience and opposing counsel’s positions—and be able to navigate adroitly around those differences.[14] When presented with facts or law that offend her ethics or sense of justice, a lawyer must still find a way to practice while experiencing those reactions. These are not easy challenges to meet, and she can only develop the competencies necessary to meet them with practice. Accordingly, it benefits law students when legal educators present them with legal problems for which there is no obvious, singular answer, even if—and perhaps especially if—those problems put students in an uncomfortable position.

A trauma response, however, is not the same thing as discomfort or even low levels of stress. In the midst of a trauma response, a person cannot function because her body and mind are preoccupied with the beating back a perceived threat to her very existence. Trauma is highly unpredictable, damaging to the self and to the ability to learn, and shockingly common.

This Part provides an overview of trauma and its implications for trauma-affected law students. It begins by defining trauma. Next, it explains in more depth what a person experiences in the midst of a trauma response and how trauma threatens a person’s ability to learn, not just the individual. Finally, it turns to the types of experiences that can trigger trauma and notes their ubiquity in both human experience and the law school curriculum.

A. Three Moments Defined by Fear

“Simply put, psychological trauma is the result of an experience that is too much to handle.”[15] More formally, “trauma” is defined as “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being.”[16] As this definition makes clear, there are three dimensions to trauma—first, an event or set of circumstances that is capable of making a person feel like their well-being is at risk (the traumatic event);[17] second, the individual’s experience of that event as threatening (the experience of the event); and finally, the lingering effects of that experience on the individual, whose body and mind continue to perceive that a person is under attack (the trauma effect or trauma response). Trauma experts sometimes refer to this trio as “the three E’s” of trauma."[18]

Each of the three E’s is characterized by debilitating fear. The activating traumatic event places a person in a state of terror that he cannot easily escape, and his body and brain’s physiological preoccupation with protecting him overwhelms any other priorities.[19] The primary effect of trauma is to force a person back into that initial state of terror after the traumatic event has passed, preventing him from performing in the present because his body and mind perceive that he is still under threat.[20] It is the fact that a trauma response interferes with one’s ability to function, in contrast to simply being distracting or making functioning unpleasant that distinguishes it from mere discomfort.[21] Likewise, shock, anger, sadness, or disgust are not akin to trauma, no matter how deeply a person experiences one of these reactions because they do not impede a person’s ability to function in the same way.

One of the complexities of trauma is that it is highly unpredictable and individualized. Not every person who has been exposed to a traumatic event will experience it as threatening, and not every person who experiences it as threatening will develop the same trauma response; trauma symptoms vary significantly from person to person in kind and intensity.[22] Whether and to what extent a person will experience trauma symptoms depends in part on her social context and general health, both physical and mental, as well as the cumulative number of adverse events to which she is exposed.[23] Trauma is also unpredictable in that it can be difficult to detect precisely when a trauma response has been activated and because the outward signs of a trauma response can manifest suddenly. One researcher compared the process of trauma activation to shaking a can of soda—one cannot necessarily tell from a person’s outward appearance that she is going to explode.[24]

Although it is impossible to predict who will experience trauma on an individual level, we know that trauma is an incredibly common experience. By the time we reach adulthood, the majority of us have been exposed to at least one and perhaps several events capable of activating a trauma response,[25] and many of us will have manifested severe trauma symptoms.[26]

The ubiquity of trauma makes it likely that it will enter the law school learning environment in three ways. First, learners may bring it to class with them. Some law students will have experienced a traumatic event in the past or be in the midst of experiencing an on-going traumatic event and have active trauma symptoms during the time that they are enrolled in law school.[27] Second, the course material may expose students with trauma histories to material that is reminiscent of an earlier traumatic achievement,[28] and that exposure may reactivate their trauma symptoms. This process is referred to as retraumatization.[29] During retraumatization, a person will typically experience trauma symptoms to a lesser degree than they did after the original traumatic event, but this is not always the case.[30] Finally, all students may experience “vicarious trauma,” also known as “secondary trauma.” Vicarious trauma occurs when “exposure to traumatic narratives” of the trauma experiences of others, “particularly in circumstances in which the listener is highly empathic or trying to be” results in “trauma-related symptoms in the listener.”[31] As this definition suggests, in general, vicarious trauma symptoms are much less severe than in cases of primary trauma; however, the effect of an exposure to a particularly graphic or intimate account and the cumulative effect of multiple experiences of vicarious trauma can be quite intense.[32]

B. Trauma’s Toll on Learning

During a trauma response, a person is trapped in a state of fear.[33] Thus, to understand trauma, it is useful to understand what happens physiologically anytime a person is afraid or perceives a danger.

The human brain is designed to ensure that the body survives when threatened.[34] The first line of defense is the amygdala, the brain’s “smoke detector,” whose role is to identify whether sensory input suggests a threat to a person’s survival.[35] When the amygdala senses such a threat, it instantaneously sends messages to the hypothalamus and the brain stem, what we colloquially known as the “reptilian brain,” to avoid or fight the threat.[36] It also “recruit[s] the stress hormone system and autonomic nervous system to orchestrate a whole-body response.”[37] This lighting-speed, automatic reaction is commonly known as a “flight-or-fight” response or an “acute-stress response.”[38]

Significantly, during an acute-stress response, the amygdala works more quickly than the prefrontal cortex of our brain, which controls executive functioning.[39] The amygdala “decides whether the incoming information is a threat to our survival even before we are consciously aware of the danger. By the time we realize what is happening, our body may already be on the move.”[40] Accordingly, those in the midst of an acute-stress response are literally not thinking but reacting.

Any of us when exposed to a traumatic event are likely to experience this type of acute stress reaction in the moment, as a natural reaction to a genuinely threatening situation.[41] A hallmark feature of trauma is that traumatized people also are likely to have this response long after the initial traumatic event has passed—in part because of changes that take place in the brain as a result of being exposed to one or more traumatic event.[42] The smoke detectors of people with trauma histories are more vulnerable to raising false alarms because, although the amygdala is “usually pretty good at picking up danger clues, trauma increases the risk of misinterpreting whether a particular situation is dangerous or safe.”[43] The brains of people with trauma sometimes do not differentiate between the memory of a dangerous situation and an active, real-time threat.[44] As a result, a person with trauma may blow up or shut-down in response to innocuous situations.[45] During a trauma response a person is likely to have a fight-or-flight reaction when there is no genuine threat to fight or from which to flee.[46]

Although a fight-or-flight response to a false alarm is one of the most common persistent manifestations of trauma, it is not the only one.[47] Hypervigilance, dissociation, and depersonalization are also typical manifestations of trauma.[48] Hypervigilance means literally that—a state of extreme or excessive vigilance in which a person is highly or abnormally alert to potential danger or threat.[49] Dissociation occurs when a person detaches from his own physical sensations;[50] he may feel “lost, overwhelmed, abandoned, and disconnected from the world” and see himself as “unloved, empty, helpless, trapped, and weighed down.”[51] Depersonalization is a particular form of dissociation. In this state, a person feels detached from their own self or body. People in this state feel numb or may feel as though they are floating above their body.[52] “Many traumatized people cycle between fight or flight” responses" and one or more of these other manifestations of trauma.[53]

Regardless of how trauma symptoms manifest themselves in any individual person, what is common to the experience of trauma is that the brain’s prefrontal cortex is not in charge. A brain in the midst of trauma is in no state to learn. As Imad Mays, a neuroscientist and educator, explains, “the limbic system (emotions) hijacks the cerebral cortex (reason). Learning, which requires the expenditure of energy, becomes physiologically less of a priority to our brain—making it difficult to learn” in general when a person experiences trauma.[54] In the “higher state of arousal” associated with trauma, “the creative and ‘mature’ problem-solving capabilities mediated by the cortex are not easily accessed.”[55] The physiological effects of trauma can extend as far as affecting a person’s language and ability to articulate thoughts and concepts verbally. For example, researchers found that when those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were reminded of their traumatic experiences, their limbic systems activated and “the area of the brain associated with language [simultaneously] became less active.”[56] Imagine for a moment being a student in a law school classroom without being able to articulate your thoughts at all, let alone with precise language.

As such, the persistent stress and low-level fear that trauma-affected students tend to experience places them at a disadvantage. Bruce Perry, a trauma specialist and one of the few writers to examine the impact of trauma on adult learners in particular, explains:

The adult learner in a persisting low-level state of fear retrieves information from the world differently than do adults who feel calm. We are all familiar with test anxiety, but imagine what life would be like if all learning experiences evoked a similar and persisting emotion of anxiety. Even if an adult has successfully stored information in cortical areas, this information is inaccessible while the learner feels so fearful.[57]

This persistent state of fear and other common symptoms of trauma can impede learning in concrete and practical ways. In the spring of 2020, many of us got a taste of how difficult it is to perform to the best of our abilities when hampered by trauma. As the United States experienced the first wave of stay-at-home directives and the sudden move to remote learning due to the pandemic, TIP expert Karen Costa commented that students and even professors were effectively experiencing what it was like to function as a trauma-affected learner.[58] She posited that many of us were observing in our students and in ourselves “[a] disinterest in things that might have previously excited us or interested us, a feeling like we . . . can’t mentally organize it all, that there’s just things swimming in our brain and we can’t really get a hold on it,” as well as having “difficulty making decisions,” “delaying gratification,” and with time management.[59] For students with active trauma symptoms, it is as if it is always April 2020.

Researchers have observed that trauma-affected learners tend to have at least one and often many of the following learning challenges:

  • “Difficulty focusing, . . . retaining, and recalling” information[60]

  • A tendency to miss class frequently[61]

  • A “[f]ear of taking risks”[62]

  • “Anxiety about deadlines, exams, group work, or public speaking”[63]

  • Difficulty with emotional regulation[64] and a tendency “to act in an ‘immature’ fashion” when threatened[65]

  • Difficulty with time management[66]

Any type of learning is difficult when a person is hampered by one or more of these common manifestations of trauma. Learning the law and how to think, analyze, and behave like a lawyer presents a challenge of the next order for several reasons, however. First, legal analysis itself requires intense focus and higher-order thinking, as well as creativity and curiosity. To put it simply: Law school is exceptionally intellectually demanding under the best of circumstances. Second, the culture of law schools presents academic performance as a high-stakes and high-stress endeavor, with law school grades often viewed as determinative of future professional success and students being judged against one another under a mandatory curve. For all students, “[d]eadlines, exams, and having to speak in class . . . will result in [at least a] moderate activation of the stress response.”[67] However, trauma-affected students are “doubly stressed” because they experience not only the already heightened levels of stress of the typical law student but also experience persistent stress and low-level fear because of their trauma.[68] Finally, as in other fields like religious education, medicine, and social work, parts of the law school curriculum are likely to evoke traumatic events that students have personally experienced. Trauma-affected learners may struggle with these topics and may even seek to opt out of parts of the curriculum in an effort to avoid distressing situations or topics.[69] When experiences of retraumatization or secondary traumatization within a course are “not handled effectively, such classroom exposures and disclosures may in turn cause students to do poorly, miss classes, or drop out.”[70] Consequently, trauma may circumscribe students’ legal education by leading them to avoid entire areas of study.[71]

C. Part of Life and the Learning Environment

Trauma events have a striking duality. They are powerful enough to elicit the life-shaping responses outlined above, yet they are remarkably quotidian occurrences. There are three types of traumatic events: abuse, loss, and chronic stressors.[72] All three are a common and familiar part of the human experience. As defined by trauma experts, the abuse category includes being subjected to emotional, sexual, and physical abuse, as well as witnessing violence in one’s home or community or being bullied.[73] Qualifying losses include the death of someone close to you or abandonment by or separation from a loved one.[74] The chronic stressors category captures persistent and often inescapable circumstances that impose a sense of fear or helplessness.[75] Trauma specialists recognize that living in poverty and in circumstances in which housing and financial resources are chronically unstable can cause trauma.[76] In addition, chronic stressors include being subjected to “negative biases . . . based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or other identity markers.”[77] For example, being repeatedly racially profiled can give rise to trauma,[78] as can routinely being subjected to homophobic microaggressions.[79]

Trauma can exist on a community, as well as an individual, level. Community trauma is “‘an aggregate of trauma experienced by community members or an event that impacts a few people but has structural and social traumatic consequences.’”[80] Community trauma can stem both from current events, such as limited access to social services or prevalent violence within a community, and historical traumas, such as European settler governments’ forced cultural assimilation of indigenous communities.[81]

Given the extent to which traumatic events are a part of common human experience, it is not surprising that the majority of law students have been exposed to a traumatic event before matriculating. Indeed, roughly twenty-six percent of children in the United States have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event before the age of four by some estimates, and sixty percent of adults have reported experiencing abuse or other difficult family circumstances during childhood.[82] These statistics signify that almost two-thirds of college undergraduate students have been exposed to at least one potentially traumatic event before they reach college (and, therefore, before they reach law school), with some reporting multiple exposures.[83] The most common events reported to researchers are “a life-threatening illness and the unexpected death of a loved one.”[84]

Unfortunately, the statistics for the period during which students are in college do not improve. To the contrary, undergraduate students are at increased risk of experiencing new traumatic events, such as a sexual assault, relative to the population at large.[85] Moreover, there is evidence that a significant number of law students have not just been exposed to a traumatic event but have developed trauma symptoms or received a trauma diagnosis. For example, roughly ten percent of college freshman meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.[86]

The data indicates that at least one student, and likely several students, in each law school class has a trauma history, although we cannot predict with equal confidence which students carry a trauma history with them to law school or whether those histories will manifest themselves in active symptoms. It is worth at least considering, however, whether in some cases the maladaptive behaviors faculty see in students, such as inattentiveness, absenteeism, and difficulties with time management, stem from trauma.[87] Likewise, although it is difficult to identify whether a particular student will be retraumatized by course material, what we know about retraumatization and the pervasiveness of trauma suggests that the risk is there for any cohort of students. Trauma is simply part of the context in which law students are learning and in which faculty are teaching.

Trauma is also visible in learning environments in the material that law professors teach, particularly (although not exclusively) in courses that discuss social justice and inequality. Trauma events are a part of the human experience and a too frequent by-product of human behavior. At its core, the law regulates human behavior, and as legal educators, we ask our students to not just memorize the black-letter law but to understand and analyze it. A thorough and deep understanding of law, including an assessment of its efficacy and shortcomings, requires some understanding of the conditions that shaped it and influenced its evolution. As a consequence, traumatic events are likely to come up in the study of the law. For instance, it is difficult to imagine teaching a course on bankruptcy, property, housing, or consumer protection law without ever mentioning poverty and its impacts. Similarly, how would one teach either torts or trusts and estates without ever mentioning death or other sudden, unexpected losses? Criminal law professors must grapple with how to address rape in their first-year courses and the interactions between racism, doctrine, and policing in their criminal procedure courses. For legal writing professors, whose writing assignments and exercises may center on virtually any area of law, there are no limits on the types of trauma experiences we and our students might encounter. Regardless of the particular area of law, the “material facts” of an intellectually rigorous examination of the law may include circumstances that amount to traumatic events. Indeed, the very same types of topics that are appropriate, even necessary, subjects for our course problems are prone to activate a trauma response in some students. This is especially—but not exclusively—the case in any course that seeks to examine and challenge oppressive structures because of the intimate “connection between trauma and oppression.”[88]

In addition to being unpredictable and damaging to learning, trauma is also, in some senses, unavoidable in the legal classroom. It is part of the geography of the learning environment both because students carry it with them into the classroom and because the subjects that legal educators teach raise it. Therefore, legal writing professors need to be prepared to teach in the presence of trauma.

II. Teaching & Learning in the Presence of Trauma

The trauma-informed pedagogy literature developed in other fields offers law professors a way to minimize the impact of trauma on students and their learning. This Part traces TIP’s evolution as a pedagogical theory and reviews the TIP literature. It then synthesizes the key lessons of that literature to identify concrete teaching practices that professors can employ to teach effectively in the presence of trauma.

Theories of trauma-informed pedagogy are rooted in trauma-informed care (TIC) and the medical research of traumatologists. TIC is a treatment modality that first emerged in the mental healthcare arena as a way of improving care to specific subsets of patients.[89] In the late 1970s, medical researchers began to devote more attention to trauma, as they encountered it in their work with veterans of the Vietnam War and survivors of child abuse and domestic violence.[90] Through the work of leaders in the medical field such as Judith Lewis Herman[91] and Bessel van der Kolk,[92] the physiological and cognitive effects of trauma, as well as the paths to recovering from those effects, came to be better understood by mental healthcare providers. TIC also has extended its reach beyond medicine, and it has now been adopted across the “helping professions,” including medicine, social work, and the law.[93]

The principles of trauma-informed care start from the premise that anyone and everyone may be affected by trauma.[94] The six principles of TIC are as follows:

  1. Safety: “Throughout the organization, staff and the people they serve, whether children or adults, feel physically and psychologically safe.”[95]

  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency: “Organizational operations and decisions are conducted with transparency and the goal of building and maintaining trust among clients, family members, staff, and others involved with the organization.”[96]

  3. Peer Support: “Peer support and mutual self-help are key vehicles for establishing safety and hope, building trust, enhancing collaboration, serving as models of recovery and healing, and maximizing a sense of empowerment.”[97]

  4. Collaboration and Mutuality: “Partnering and leveling of power differences between staff and clients and among organizational staff from direct care to administrators; demonstrates that healing happens in relationships, and in the meaningful sharing of power and decision-making. Everyone has a role to play; one does not have to be a therapist to be therapeutic.”[98]

  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice: “Individuals’ strengths and experiences are recognized and built upon; the experience of having a voice and choice is validated and new skills developed. The organization fosters a belief in resilience. Clients are supported in developing self-advocacy skill and self-empowerment.”[99]

  6. Active Recognition of Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues: “The organization actively moves past cultural stereotypes and biases, offers gender-responsive services, leverages the healing value of traditional cultural connections, and recognizes and addresses historical trauma.”[100]

It was K-12 educators who first took note of the need for something akin to TIC in the field of education and adapted and tailored TIC to create trauma informed pedagogy.[101] These educators continue to be the leaders and innovators in TIP theory today.[102] However, in recent years, TIP literature for higher education has begun to emerge, particularly from professional fields in which students will ultimately work with people (and therefore are likely to encounter trauma), such as social work, theology, teacher training, medicine, and nursing.[103] Outside of the literature expressly focused on adapting TIP for higher education, the movement (and subsequent debates) around the use of trigger warnings in post-collegiate settings was also viewed as a moment in which TIP broke into higher education, since the intent of such warnings is to better equip students for exposure to potentially traumatizing material.[104]

Three core principles animate TIP theory, and they come straight from the research of traumatologists and the founding principles of TIC. First, as with the trauma informed approach to care that gave birth to it, TIP’s prime directive is “safety.”[105] The pedagogy prioritizes fostering students’ sense of safety and well-being as the paramount concern when making teaching decisions.[106] Second, TIP urges instructors to promote students’ agency and to maximize opportunities for them to make independent choices.[107] Finally, TIP accepts trauma as a native species of the learning environment and operates under the predicate assumption that any and every learner has experience with trauma.[108]

TIP’s emphasis on safety is directly connected to the science of trauma and the recognition that a trauma-affected student cannot learn when his body and mind are preoccupied with warding off perceived threats and staying alive.[109] Trauma is characterized by helplessness and terror,[110] and, therefore, TIP’s goal is to create an environment in which students feel safe.[111] Carello and Butler explain that TIP’s “first principle—ensuring emotional and physical safety—is the most fundamental. Safety is a necessary precondition to a learning-conducive environment, and this is especially true when teaching content that includes trauma.”[112]

Likewise, TIP seeks to promote student agency as a counterpoint to trauma and its effects. Trauma is closely associated with a lack of control. In the moment, activating traumatic events force those who experience them into a reactive posture. The event itself is something threatening to strip people of power and agency, and trauma responses are marked by the fact that they are both involuntary and engulfing.[113] Therefore, it is not surprising that traumatologists have found that providing those affected by trauma with opportunities to exercise their agency is therapeutic and promotes their resiliency.[114] Imbuing students with a sense of autonomy also has a close and obvious link to TIP’s safety imperative; students are more likely to feel secure in a learning environment when they have some control over it and retain control over themselves when they are within it.[115]

The final organizing principle of TIP is that trauma is a universal experience. The pedagogy operates from the premise that every learner is or has been affected by trauma and that institutions, courses, and exercises should be designed to account for trauma. A common refrain in the literature is that when confronted with a student who is routinely distracted, inattentive, or disruptive, instructors should hold back from jumping to the question, “What in the world is wrong with this person?”[116] Instead, TIP counsels instructors to reframe the inquiry. Instructors should ask “What has happened to you?” of everyone in the course, not just of the “problem students.”[117] The shift from one question to the other captures in only a few words the mindset at the heart of TIP. That mindset reflects the dual reality that trauma is a remarkably common human experience and that it can be difficult to perceive which people in a crowd are affected by it. The TIP mindset also views a trauma response as precisely that—an involuntary, biologically driven response to external events—rather than a signal that a student is weak, unreasonable, or incompetent. Under this mindset, trauma is the common enemy or perhaps, more precisely, an ordinary challenge in the learning process; the student is not the problem being foisted on the educator.[118]

Across the TIP literature, this triad of principles—safety, agency, and universality—are consistently identified as giving rise to six broad trauma informed teaching practices:

(1) Acknowledge and plan for trauma.[119] Instructors should account for the prevalence and unpredictability of trauma by educating themselves on the common manifestations and triggers of trauma.[120] Instructors should also approach teaching through the lens that that every student is a trauma survivor.[121] Accounting for trauma as part of the course preparation process, allows instructors to be ready for sudden and unexpected trauma responses from students[122] and to implement safeguards in advance of introducing course materials that have a high probability of activating a trauma response. [123]

(2) Offer choices where appropriate and possible.[124] Instructors should provide students with some measure of choice, including the genuine option to decide not to participate in specific learning activities.

(3) Actively build authentic relationships with students.[125] Instructors should employ concrete and consistent strategies to build a professional but genuine relationship with students as people, such as regularly asking them about topics unrelated to the course material.[126] Likewise, instructors are encouraged to be open and acknowledge their own stress reactions to distressing material or subjects and to model how they manage such stresses.[127]

(4) Be transparent and communicate any changes in advance.[128] Instructors should clearly communicate their expectations, the learning objectives for the course and particular projects, and the schedule.[129] This kind of transparency reduces the anxiety associated that all learners experience when they do not know what is coming next, but is especially helpful to trauma-affected students.[130] Likewise, instructors should establish consistent routines within a course and preview in advance when there will be changes to those routines.[131] Being transparent includes giving students advance notice that trauma topics will be covered at the outset of a course[132] and in specific upcoming exercises.[133]

(5) Encourage and create opportunities for collaboration. Instructors should invite conversations with students as to their learning priorities and interests by soliciting their opinions.[134]

(6) Be thoughtful of about language and framing. In interactions with students, instructors should try to use neutral language and avoid authoritative phrasing or displays of power.[135] Language and tones that are dismissive of student concerns or convey ridicule or impatience should also be avoided.[136] Instructors also should avoid romanticizing or privileging traumatic experiences.[137] For example, Janice Carello and Lisa Butler warn against instructors pushing students to write about topics like suicide or abuse in their creative writing courses or depicting this kind of “risky writing” as being more engaging or impressive than writing on less fraught topics.[138]

III. Courageous Spaces

A critique that may be lingering in the back or even the front of some readers’ minds at this point is that TIP theory effectively advocates for babying law students. “Safety” and the related term “safe spaces” can be trigger words for some faculty, conjuring images of a course in which nothing but the most banal topics can be discussed and virtually every topic must be prefaced with a warning before it is introduced.[139] However, it is more productive and precise to view the sense of safety created by TIP as facilitating conversations that may strike the third rail. The objective of TIP is not to eliminate all sensitive or potentially traumatizing material from the curriculum.[140] Rather, TIP accounts for and guards against the negative impact of trauma on learning precisely so that students can engage in the rigorous work of being a lawyer, despite trauma’s presence.[141] TIP creates a learning environment in which students are more willing to take risks and be creative because they are reassured that they will be afforded respect, agency, and safety, even when they have a strong or unconventional reaction to the material, take an unpopular position, or fail at a task. TIP creates courageous spaces, and as a result it benefits all students, not only those with extensive or severe trauma histories.

Learning is a cycle that begins with a curiosity that “drives us to explore.”[142] When this “exploration leads to discovery it brings us pleasure. . . . Optimal learning depends on this process—a cycle of curiosity, exploration, discovery, practice, and mastery—which leads to pleasure, satisfaction, and the confidence to once again set out and explore.”[143] The cycle of learning begins with curiosity, but its success turns on a learner’s willingness to take risks, including the risk of being wrong and the risk of learning something unpleasant about himself or the world in the course of that exploration. Courage is also needed to engage with the topics that lawyers must engage with in the course of their work. Law students are on occasion presented with “challenging expressions of human experiences” in their studies, and it takes courage to “risk speaking of—and risk hearing—pain, disruption, and disorientation.”[144] L. Callid Keefe-Perry and Zachary Moon use the term “courageous risk-taking” to refer to the competency necessary to engage with and learn from difficult material of this kind.[145] Trauma informed educational practices foster this competency by creating a learning environment that encourages students to take the plunge by reassuring them that they are in a supportive environment and that support will not be withdrawn if they make mistakes. Instructors following TIP theory will actively build authentic relationships with students in which they signal that they can be trusted, they are invested in the students’ as people and learners, and that students have agency over their own learning.[146] The trust TIP practices engender is not uniquely beneficial to trauma-affected learners. There is a growing literature suggesting that building a trusting instructor-student relationship improves learning outcomes, including in the areas of student motivation, attitudes toward learning, engagement, and performance.[147]

Of course, law school instructors could take the opposite tack to TIP’s emphasis on safety and instead pursue something akin to an inoculation strategy. The thinking behind this approach is that by exposing students to potentially traumatizing materials and encouraging them to dive deeply into them, students will become desensitized to trauma and hardened to future exposures to traumatic events in their professional life.[148] This approach has been suggested in other fields.[149] For example, one author suggested that “risky writing” in creative writing courses—effectively writing narratives about traumatic events—“may induce symptoms not unlike those experienced when receiving a flu vaccination.”[150] There is also a complementary theory that engaging with trauma topics in an assignment will provide students with trauma histories with an opportunity to process their own experiences.[151]

However, such attempts at inoculation or sparking catharsis through a deep, unmediated engagement with trauma are likely to be ineffective, based on what we know about the biology of trauma. For those with significant trauma histories, there is a substantial risk that their trauma symptoms would be activated by such an approach.[152] For example, in a study in which participants with PTSD symptoms were asked to write about a traumatic event and then elaborate orally on their event in the presence of an experimenter, those participants reported an increase in their avoidance symptoms and health care visits, while those in the control group reported a decrease in both.[153] Students without pre-existing trauma can experience vicarious trauma when exposed to potentially activating material, and although their symptoms are likely to be milder, they are no more productive.[154]

Furthermore, it is dangerous to flood students with trauma without knowing what and how intense their responses will be. The persistent problem instructors face is that they cannot know with certainty which of their students bring a trauma history to their classrooms; nor can they know what form any one student’s trauma response will take or predict its intensity.[155] The advantage of TIP is that it meets this challenge by working around it. TIP is built on the foundational premise that every learner is a trauma survivor.[156] In this sense there are parallels between trauma informed pedagogy and universal design. Just as universal design makes physical spaces accessible, intelligible, and usable to the greatest number of people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability,[157] TIP creates an environment that promotes all students’ learning, regardless of their trauma history. As some of those who were instrumental in developing TIP in the K-12 context observed, “Trauma-sensitive school environments benefit all children—those whose trauma history is known, those whose trauma will never be clearly identified, and those who may be impacted by their traumatized classmates.”[158]

Moreover, TIP’s blueprint is also like universal design in that it is just good design.[159] “If people are anxious, uncomfortable, or fearful, they do not learn. If they are unwilling to explore or if they develop anxiety when faced with something new, they place increasing limitations on themselves.”[160] In contrast, by creating a courageous space in which students feel safe and trust their peers and instructor, a TIP approach makes it more likely that students will explore and learn. Because legal “education entails at least some sense of risk, exploration, and relationship building, a trauma-informed approach could be beneficial to engendering an environment that yields flourishing for more participants.”[161]

IV. A Trauma-Informed Approach to Legal Problem Design

TIP establishes preferred teaching practices, not all of which are instantly applicable to the specific work of designing a legal writing problem and presenting it to students. This Part reconfigures and further distills TIP teaching practices with an eye toward the specific challenges and demands of problem design. It focuses first on the task of selecting and shaping a problem’s topic, before focusing on how professors can structure and administer the problem to promote students’ senses of safety and agency.

In legal problem design, the most pivotal phase of the process from a trauma perspective is the beginning when the professor selects the topic. This stage is the most critical one because the topic determines so much of the content to which students will be exposed. Professors must look beyond the problem’s fact pattern to also consider the content of the caselaw that students will read, as well as the types of classroom discussions and student-written narratives the topic is likely to provoke. For example, although the legal issue in the Title IX problem was cabined to the adequacy of the institutional response to the student’s complaint of harassment, the cases that students encountered in their research were not similarly limited, and many of the decisions graphically described the underlying abuse that gave rise to the claims.

As noted in the introduction, this article uses the terms “trauma topics” or “trauma-based problems” to refer to course work that requires students to engage with law or fact patterns that describe traumatic events with sufficient detail to evoke a trauma response. These definitions are intentionally elastic, and they mirror the definition of a “traumatic event,” which acknowledges that such an event does not necessarily lead to a trauma response, merely that it is capable of activating one.[162] Just as there is variation in the effect that a traumatic event has on different people, educators can expect variation in the intensity of students’ responses to trauma topics—variation both from student-to-student with respect to a topic and from topic-to-topic for a particular student. Using an inclusive definition of “trauma topics” helps realize TIP’s directive that professors account for trauma in a nuanced and meaningful way.[163] It also makes it easier for professors to anticipate students’ possible trauma responses.[164]

A. Shaping the Topic and Students’ Work

The forces that determine whether a problem topic is “too much” from a trauma perspective are dynamic and highly dependent on the course’s specific context. They also are dependent on each other. The four major considerations when assessing a topic from a trauma perspective are:

  • Do students have a meaningful choice to decline to participate in the problem?

  • Does the problem’s topic mirror traumatic experiences that the students have personally experienced? If so, how closely?

  • Does the problem require intense or prolonged interaction with traumatic topics?

  • How essential is the topic to meeting the course’s learning objectives?

No one answer to any one question will determine whether a topic is appropriate in a given course. It is the collective weight of the answers and the contextual dynamics surrounding the course that must be considered. I picture in my own mind a balance scale. On the left side, the weight of students’ existing trauma is pushing downward, creating a drag on the student and impeding the learning process. On the right side are the trauma informed teaching practices that professors can implement to counterbalance students’ trauma. Each of the contextual factors outlined above— (i) students’ degree of choice; (ii) the extent to which the problem mirrors their own experiences; (iii) the intensity of student engagement with trauma materials; and (iv) the centrality of the trauma topic to the course material—can add weight to either side of the scale. When the teaching context adds little weight to the burden on the left side of the scale, the professor has more latitude to center problems on a given trauma topic. For example, it is easier for a professor to counteract the risk that a trauma topic will be activating in a course in which students have a high degree of autonomy and can opt out of the problem. In contrast, whenever additional weight is added to trauma’s side of the scale, more effort will be required to keep the scale in balance and to account for trauma in the professor’s teaching. In some situations, the weight piled on the left side may be so crushing that trauma informed teaching practices cannot adequately steady the scale, and in those cases an alternate topic for the problem should be selected. For instance, it would be extremely challenging for a professor to adequately mitigate against the trauma impact of a problem topic that closely mirrors students’ own traumatic experiences, if the problem is worth a significant portion of a student’s grade in a mandatory course and will be the subject of weeks of classroom discussions, independent student work, and feedback meetings.

1. Do they have a choice?

The threshold question when designing problems from a trauma informed perspective is, “Do your students have a choice?” Do they have a choice as to whether to be there, in the course? Do they feel as if they must do the problem, or do they feel free to pass on it? Under a TIP framework, professors’ degree of latitude when designing problems is tethered to the degree of choice that their students have in the context of a particular course. In situations in which students have a meaningful opportunity to opt in—or, more importantly, opt out—of the exercise, professors have more freedom to base problems on topics that are highly sensitive and even likely to activate trauma in some students. Professors have more freedom in these types of contexts because a student has the ability to engage in self-protection by avoiding an elective course all together.[165] In contrast, when the course and the problem are mandatory, either formally or as a practical matter, professors are much more constrained in their choice of problem topics, for the simple reason that a student cannot avoid a problem that is likely to activate a trauma response, making it much more difficult to maintain that student’s sense of safety.

Students’ degree of choice is also important to problem design because of the nature of trauma itself. Trauma forces students into a reactive posture—first, during the activating traumatic event itself and then during the body’s involuntary trauma response. Accordingly, providing opportunities for agency and choice within the context of a learning environment can promote resiliency and recovery from trauma.[166] When professors create opportunities for students to exercise agency in a mandatory course or an otherwise low-choice learning context, it can mitigate the impact of trauma and possibly make it possible for students to engage with more challenging topics while still maintaining the necessary sense of safety.

Two interrelated factors determine whether a problem presents students with a high-choice or a low-choice learning context: the nature of the problem and the nature of the course.

The first and most basic consideration is whether the problem is mandatory. When participation in a problem is a formal requirement of the course, students have a very limited ability to engage in self-protection. If a mandatory problem uses a trauma topic, a student is faced with the proposition of declining to participate and failing the course or engaging with a trauma topic that threatens the student’s well-being and ability to learn. Students are functionally placed in the same Catch-22 when participation in a problem is not formally required to pass the course but is nonetheless worth a significant part of students’ grades—meaning, students’ performance could play a determinative role in their final letter grade for the course. These types of assignments force students to choose between placing their well-being in jeopardy or doing poorly in the course.[167]

The only possible way for trauma-affected students to avoid the dilemma presented by a mandatory or functionally required trauma-based problem is to approach the professor and ask for an ad hoc accommodation with respect to the assignment. This solution is an unsatisfactory one on several fronts. As a matter of principle, students should not be required to disclose their deeply personal and painful trauma experiences in order to maintain their well-being and succeed academically.[168] Moreover, even if it were acceptable to put the onus on students to disclose their trauma histories to faculty when they are confronted with a problematic problem, it seems unlikely that many students would feel comfortable or able to do so. In addition, any special accommodation that the professor makes for a student after a problem has been assigned may inadvertently draw attention to the student and possibly out the student’s trauma history to others. In short, even if a professor is willing to adjust a mandatory or functionally required assignment for trauma-affected students, many such students are still likely to feel pressure to participate in the problem as written because the costs associated with objecting are too high.

Problems that are not required but take up a considerable amount of instructional time, such as a classroom hypo that is discussed over the course of several classes, present similar problems to a lesser degree. Students may feel pressure to engage with such a problem, despite the trauma consequences, because they perceive it to be important to mastering the course material—otherwise, why else would the professor devote so much class time to it? From a practical standpoint, it is also difficult for students to engage in self-protection when a problem is the topic of prolonged discussion over several classes. In these types of situations, a student cannot disengage from the trauma-based problem without disengaging from the course itself.

In contrast, when a hypo is used during a limited portion of a single class, it is possible for the student to avoid a trauma topic simply by excusing themselves from the classroom for a few minutes. In this latter scenario, students are more likely to feel like the choice to disengage with the trauma-based problem is a genuine one because avoiding the problem is a relatively low-cost proposition. This is especially the case, if the professor’s course rules allow students a limited number of “no questions asked” passes for responding to questions in classes, or the professor has an otherwise flexible grading scheme for class participation.

Similarly, problem structures that incorporate a degree of choice allow students to avoid traumatizing material, such that a professor can include trauma topics in the course without placing students in a difficult position. For instance, if students are required to respond to five out of ten weekly prompts for short writing assignments during the semester, a professor could center a small number of these papers on trauma topics because a student who found a particular topic activating could decline to write that week.

The pressure students feel to participate in problems that are formally or functionally required is intensified when the course itself is required. When a course is a requirement for graduation, students make the reasonable assumption that the course—and their performance in it—is important to their future success. There is also the practical reality that law school grades, particularly in the first year of study, are consequential to students’ ability to find summer and long-term employment. In the context of mandatory courses, students’ perceived ability to engage in self-protection is significantly hampered. Students cannot practically opt out of the course itself, and they may reasonably feel pressure to participate in every exercise in the course—despite the trauma implications—because their success in the course is such a high-stakes enterprise. Similar signals surround what this article terms foundational courses—courses that cover topics tested on the bar or that are considered an important foundation for practice. For instance, at my institution, Property is not a required course, but most students take it.[169]

Because legal writing professors typically teach required and foundational courses, we most often teach in a context in which our students have little choice but to take the course. The core legal writing course is both ABA required and part of the foundational first-year curriculum.[170] In addition, some institutions require or strongly advise that students take an upper-year writing course. Such upper-level courses also are low-choice contexts for students, particularly when only one section of the course is offered by the law school or students use a lottery system to register for courses because students do not have free rein to pick the section or iteration of the course that they will take.[171] In contrast, when an upper-level course is one of a number of different courses that students can take to satisfy an institutional requirement, the professor’s choices are less constrained. This type of course is akin to an elective from a trauma-informed perspective because no student is compelled to enroll in it.

The fact that legal writing professors most often teach required courses does not instantly preclude us from ever using any trauma topic in our problems and exercises. For instance, some trauma topics will be appropriate choices for short, in-class exercises from which students can opt out relatively easily. The mandatory nature of legal writing courses does mean, however, that we begin the problem-design process with less leeway than some other law school faculty. Our range of options narrows further if the problem and not just the course is formally or functionally required. As the next section discusses, it is also relevant how intensely the problem requires students to engage with trauma topics and how closely those topics mirror students’ own trauma experiences. When a problem requires only superficial engagement with a trauma topic or the topic involves traumatic events that students are unlikely to have personally experienced, it may be appropriate to base a problem on a trauma topic, even in the otherwise low-choice context of a required problem in a required course.

2. What is happening to your students?

Students’ degree of choice is the most important factor in the topic-selection process, but it is not the only dynamic that matters. Professors should also weigh how intense students’ interactions with a trauma topic are likely to be. Fact patterns and exercise materials that describe traumatic events in depth and with detail make those events more vivid, increasing the risk that they will elicit vicarious trauma or reactivate symptoms in those with trauma histories.[172] In contrast, an exercise that references traumatic events in passing or in general terms is much less likely to elicit a severe response, even if the topic area is an especially sensitive one.[173] Similarly, a short hypo being used in class to underline a point requires less engagement with a topic than a problem that students work on throughout a semester. Prolonged exposure to a trauma topic of the kind students would experience in the latter scenario is likely to be more stressful for students than the type of brief exposure they would experience in the former.[174] In short, the trauma implications of a problem are likely to be less significant when it requires students to engage only briefly or relatively superficially with a trauma topic than when it requires sustained or close engagement with the topic.

Another very important consideration is how closely a particular topic or fact pattern mirrors students’ own trauma experiences. While vicarious trauma responses are of concern, they are typically much less severe than a primary response or the effects of retraumatization.[175] In contrast, for a student in the midst of experiencing trauma or with a trauma history, a law school problem that closely parallels his experience can exacerbate or reignite his trauma symptoms.[176] Accordingly, professors should be cognizant of the types of experiences that students bring with them to the classroom.[177]

At the outset of the problem design process, professors should broadly consider who the students in the course are likely to be and ask, “What happened to them before they came to law school? What happens to them when they leave the law school classroom each day?”[178] It is difficult to predict with perfect precision which specific traumatic events the students in a course have experienced or are experiencing as they attend law school. But one can make some educated guesses about which trauma topics are likely to resonate strongly with a class of students. Although trauma can happen to anyone, scholars have identified some groups of students as being more likely to experience past or ongoing trauma.[179] Two groups of students who are at elevated risk of experiencing trauma are BIPOC students, who have experienced recurrent racial discrimination at high rates, and LGTBQ+ students, who frequently have been subjected to homophobic or transphobic violence and discrimination.[180] The statistical evidence also suggests that law students experience or have experienced domestic violence[181] and sexual violence at high rates.[182] Furthermore, it is statistically likely that some portion of a law school class will have experienced one of the most common traumatic events in human experience, the death of a loved one.[183] As a consequence, the following topic areas are likely to be highly sensitive for some segment of the student body at virtually every law school:

  • Violence and discrimination animated by the target’s race, sexuality, or gender-identity

  • Domestic violence

  • Sexual violence

  • Death of a loved one

Other groups who experience trauma at high rates are veterans; refugees; survivors of natural disasters; students who have experienced a health crisis; and students who have experienced housing, food, or financial insecurity.[184] Students who fit each of these profiles attend law schools across the country, although depending on the institution there may be many or a relatively small number of students from each of these groups. It is advisable for professors to treat the kinds of traumatic experiences that are typical of members of these groups as highly sensitive topics, unless they are able to ascertain with confidence that a particular topic area is unlikely to mirror their students’ personal histories. For instance, a professor at a law school with a high number of students who are veterans is teaching in a very different context than a professor at a law school with only a handful of veterans enrolled in the entire institution. In the latter situation, the professor may be able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that none of the students in his particular section are veterans, particularly once the term is underway and he has had an opportunity to get to know his students.

Consistent with TIP’s imperative of prioritizing students’ safety and ability to learn, in the context of their required legal writing courses, professors should not create problems that both require students to engage in depth with any of these highly sensitive topics and are required (either formally or functionally). This guidance is not intended to deter a professor from using a problem that involves one of these topic areas broadly speaking or makes only incidental or passing reference to traumatic events. Nor does it preclude professors from using one of these highly sensitive topics as the basis of an exercise when students have a meaningful opportunity to decline to participate in it. The goal is to prevent a situation in which students are required to expose themselves to graphic depictions and discussions of traumatic experiences that are highly reminiscent of their own.

As part of considering what is happening to their students, professors should also consider the greater social context in which students are learning, including the media environment. If a particular form of traumatic event is everywhere—on the news, on Instagram, on Twitter, on everyone’s tongues as a topic of conversation—students’ sensitivity to particular trauma topics is likely to be heightened. Think back for a moment to the spring and summer of 2020 and the weeks following the murder of George Floyd. During that time, imagery and discussions of white supremacy and of police violence against Black people pervaded the media environment. The topic was inescapable. Students who had personally experienced anti-Black violence in their own lives had memories of those experiences pushed to the fore. In this situation, a problem centered on a fact pattern involving police brutality, which is likely to activate trauma in ordinary circumstances, becomes a greater threat to students because students have already been primed by the broader, society-wide discussion of the topic.

As this section illustrates, the answer to the question, “Which topics are the most sensitive from a trauma perspective?” is one of a law professor’s favorite stock answers: “It depends.” Each group of students and each moment in time will be unique. However, by considering the life experiences students are collectively bringing with them to the course, the larger social context, and the intensity with which the problem requires students to engage with trauma topics, professors can make educated predictions as to which topics risk activating strong trauma responses in students. As a general matter, a trauma topic should not be used as the basis for any required problem in a required course if students will have to engage closely with detailed descriptions or discussions of a category of traumatic event that some of them are likely to have experienced in their own lives.

3. How can you tailor the fit?

There is a final consideration that must be weighed before deciding whether to use a trauma-based problem: Is the problem’s inclusion of trauma important to student learning? And if so, can the professor further tailor the exercise so that it includes only as much student engagement with traumatic material as is necessary to serve the course’s learning objectives?

This article operates from the premise that a law professor would only contemplate centering a problem on a trauma topic because doing so would serve a course’s learning objectives—that is, in some way the problem would help build students’ capacity to be an effective lawyer or engage in complex, nuanced legal analysis.[185] The critical question from a trauma-informed perspective is not whether the use of a trauma topic serves a learning objective but whether the topic is uniquely able to meet that objective. Some have articulated TIP’s prime directive to be “to first do no harm,”[186] although it is perhaps more precisely phrased as “to first do no unnecessary harm.” It is precisely because of this prime directive that this article does not recognize a desire to pique students’ interest in course material by basing a problem on a sensational topic as a valid course objective. Although ripping topics from the headlines can stimulate learning by highlighting the salience and stakes of what students are learning, that possible benefit will always be subordinate to the paramount goal of creating a safe learning environment.

The directive to first do no unnecessary harm is easy to understand in principle but especially difficult for legal writing professors to apply. For our colleagues who teach a particular subject area of law, the question is simpler because whether a trauma topic is “necessary” often will turn on whether it is intrinsic to the subject. For instance, it is necessary in a course on refugee and asylum law to discuss various traumatic events in order to develop students’ understanding of what qualifies as “persecution” under the law. In this type of situation, in which the trauma topic is the course topic, it is simply not possible to avoid asking students to engage with trauma materials. In contrast, for legal writing professors, judgments surrounding topic selection are harder because typically there are a number of ways to help students develop mastery of a skill or competency, and not all possible problem topics may raise trauma concerns or raise them to the same degree. For example, one could teach students about the impact of unconscious bias in legal interpretation using a problem in which the plaintiff’s protected characteristic is race or one in which it is parental status. Furthermore, assessments of which topic would best meet a learning objective have a subjective component. In some cases, professors may feel the less sensitive version of the problem will not illustrate the intended lesson as rigorously as the version based on a trauma topic. Does this mean that the use of a trauma topic amounts to a “necessary harm” for the purposes of TIP’s prime directive?

If a professor does determine it is appropriate to use a trauma topic, the professor should frame the problem as narrowly as possible and trim any details in the depictions of traumatic events that are not strictly necessary. For example, if the professor chooses to use a problem based on a police-stop in which the person stopped was gravely injured, she could elect to share only written descriptions of the stop with students, instead of more evocative and vivid photographic or visually recorded depictions of it. Similarly, if the professor chooses to show students recordings of the stop, she could show only the events leading up to the point at which the police injured the person and rely on written accounts for the remainder of the incident.

When a professor has lingering doubts about whether to use a particular trauma-based problem, TIP’s principles themselves provide a useful gut check. Consistent with TIP’s emphasis on transparency, a professor will have to articulate the specific learning objectives of a problem to her students, including the specific reasons why the particular and potentially traumatizing topic advances those goals. This kind of transparency builds trust between professor and student[187] and promotes a sense of safety. In discussing trauma-informed lawyering, Annie Lemoine explained the value of being transparent about the purpose behind raising difficult topics with clients with trauma, and the explanation is equally applicable to working with students with trauma. Lemoine writes, “‘[W]ith the withdrawn client, the client may feel more in control … if the [practitioner] affirms how difficult it is to share the information. With the flooding client, it can be valuable to be upfront and transparent about the goals and focus of the interview.’”[188] If a professor rehearses the explanation of how a particular trauma-based problem advances student learning to herself and it feels unsatisfactory or she would be uncomfortable delivering it in class, it is a sign that perhaps the topic does not sufficiently advance the course’s learning objectives.

B. Structuring the Problem

Selecting the topic is the most critical phase of a problem’s life from a trauma-informed perspective, but there are also a number of steps a professor can take in administering assignments or exercises centered on a trauma topic to promote students’ sense of safety and guard against harmful trauma responses. Those steps are: (1) giving students advance notice of the problem’s inclusion of trauma topics; (2) structuring the assignment or exercise in such a way that students have some opportunities to make choices; and (3) creating opportunities for collaboration and candid dialogue, both between students and faculty and among students.

1. Notice with time to spare.

Professors should give students notice that they will be asked to engage with trauma-based problems far enough in advance that students can make informed decisions about whether and how they will participate in those exercises. Notice is necessary to realizing at least three of the core principles of a trauma-informed approach—offering choice where possible,[189] building authentic relationships with students,[190] and being transparent with students.[191] Each of these principles is designed to promote students’ sense of agency and, in turn, and most importantly, their sense of safety. But these efforts are meaningless unless a professor gives students enough notice that they have a genuine opportunity to exercise their agency.

In all courses, elective or required, in which there will be substantial engagement with trauma-based problems in the course, the professor should disclose that information in the syllabus as well as in the course catalog description. Providing notice in the syllabus allows students to anticipate and plan for their interactions with trauma topics, which is beneficial even if the students do not have the option of opting out of a particular exercise or the class itself.[192]

It is particularly important for professors to provide this degree of advance notice when the course is an elective one or one of a number of courses that can be used to satisfy a requirement for graduation.[193] Disclosing that many exercises or a single significant assignment will be centered on a trauma topic, either in the course catalog description or in comparable materials intended to guide students’ course selections, allows students to make an informed choice as to whether to enroll in the course.[194] It is not sufficient to wait to disclose this information at or just before the start of classes because at that point students have already enrolled in their courses for the term and may have lost the opportunity to enroll in an alternate course in the event that they deem the trauma-based problems too activating.[195]

For problems that are much less central to the course, such as an in-class hypo or an ungraded homework exercise, it is sufficient to verbally give notice to students with a few minutes to spare.[196] For instance, a professor could give notice of an in-class trauma-based exercise at the beginning of the class when outlining the day’s agenda or disclose that a homework assignment includes particular trauma components when handing it out. This amount of notice is sufficient to allow students to take steps to protect themselves, such as quietly excusing themselves from class before an exercise begins or declining to do a homework assignment that they deem threatening.

In substance, a professor’s notice to the class should describe the topic with enough specificity that students can identify whether it may be activating for them. The notice should also indicate whether the trauma-based exercises are mandatory or optional, graded or ungraded, and the broad nature and length of students’ expected work on the project. Finally, as noted above, the professor’s disclosure should also explain why the problem was selected and how it connects to the course’s learning objectives.[197] This type of information equips students to make calculated decisions about their participation.

2. Build in choices.

Creating opportunities for students to exercise choice is a key tenet of TIP.[198] There are a range of ways that professors can structure problems that ask students to engage with trauma topics that present students with some choices. For instance, a professor could make the trauma problem itself optional by giving students the choice of completing either Exercise A, grounded in a trauma topic, or Exercise B, grounded in a different topic but teaching the same skills or substantive point as the first exercise. Alternatively, in a situation in which students are required to complete a trauma-based problem, they still can be allowed to select the side of the dispute that they represent in the hypo or simulation. Students can likewise be offered choices as to which role within a student group they will play when the problem involves collaborative work. For example, the professor can allow students to choose which piece of a joint written project they are responsible for or select who in the group will be responsible for presenting the group’s conclusions, while other group members fulfill other responsibilities behind the scenes. Each of these seemingly small choices is an opportunity for students to exercise agency, and trauma research establishes that these small choices can have a significant, positive impact on trauma-affected students.[199]

3. Leave room for discussion (and dissent).

The TIP literature typically focuses on encouraging collaboration between students and between professor and student by giving students input into a course’s design and learning objectives.[200] Students effectively become co-creators of the course. This high level of student involvement is not always possible or desired by a professor when it comes to creating a single problem for the course. However, there are a number of other ways in which professors can provide students with opportunities to work collaboratively within the context of a trauma-based problem.

Certainly, professors can involve students in the problem’s design by incorporating feedback that they receive from their current students the next time they plan to use the problem. If students express alarm at particular aspects of the problem—a graphic detail in the fact pattern or an especially troubling decision in the incorporated precedent, for example—professors can work to revise the problem to either eliminate the problematic aspect entirely or minimize it.

During the administration of the problem, professors can encourage collaboration in two ways. First, when using a trauma-based problem, professors should strive to incorporate a component in which students collaborate with one another. The collaboration on the problem could be total—that is, the problem could be structured as a group project. It could also be less formal. For instance, the professor could carve out time in class for students to discuss the issues of the problem in smaller groups as a prelude to a class-wide discussion.[201] Eileen Zurbriggen suggests opportunities for peer support can also be created outside of class, as well:

Creating a course roster with (optional) contact information makes it easier for students to initiate contact with each other. Mentioning that students sometimes find it useful to meet outside of class for support opens this as a possibility; if any interest develops, the instructor can assist in finding a safe and comfortable meeting space. Course software systems usually provide options for online discussion boards or chat rooms that could be useful methods of providing peer support.[202]

Second, professors can create a sense of collaborative enterprise by making space for students to raise and discuss the trauma implications of the problem. Rather than ignoring the problem’s potential to activate trauma, professors should affirmatively ask students whether there are any aspects of the problem that they found troubling.[203] When students respond to this invitation for comment with objections to the problem itself, the professor should allow them to air those concerns and respond candidly. In these discussions, it is helpful for the professor to disclose any distressing reactions to the material that he had and model how he processed that stress. These kinds of frank discussions and a professor’s openness to students’ critique serves several TIP principles, including promoting collaboration and trust.[204] Discussions of this sort also have the benefit of modeling for students how to manage and process troubling reactions to the kinds of material they may encounter in practice.[205]

Traumatologists’ research consistently has found that social support can mitigate trauma symptoms, and, in fact, can actively promote recovery in those with trauma.[206] Accordingly, the TIP literature strongly encourages collaborative work and encourages instructors to create opportunities for peer support.[207] At a minimum, student-to-student collaboration facilitates learning by helping to counter trauma’s impact.[208] At best, the research indicates that creating these opportunities can be therapeutic to students, and although it is not a professor’s role to treat their students, it is a beautiful gift to be able to aid students’ recovery in the course of fulfilling the primary responsibility of teaching.[209]

4. Point out the safety nets.

Professors should signal to students that they are in a safe learning environment by sharing information about the resources available to help support students who are experiencing trauma.[210] Either in the syllabus or with the prompt for a particular problem—or ideally, in both spots—professors should provide specific information on how students can access resources like campus student counseling services or outside hotlines.[211] Providing connections to these types of resources helps students engage in self-care and manage trauma symptoms in practical terms, and placing the information in the syllabus makes it available to students who may not be comfortable seeking out a referral.[212] This also plays an equally important role in signaling to the students that the professor is invested in their well-being and is trustworthy.[213] The trust between professor and student is in some respect the secret ingredient in successfully using a legal problem grounded in a trauma topic. Building trust is not a discrete step in the problem-design process, but without it, students are unlikely to feel sufficiently safe or courageous enough to engage with a threatening topic. It is, therefore, important for professors to make clear that they are part of students’ support network, both by having the types of open dialogues mentioned above and affirmatively taking time to check in during an exercise as to how students are doing as people, not just as students.[214]


This piece began by asking whether the Title IX problem my colleagues and I had used in our first-year Lawyering Skills courses was the problem or if the problem was the world itself, which the exercise merely reflected. Ultimately, the answer to this question is, “both.” Trauma is an intrinsic part of the world that the law regulates. Trauma is all too common, it is debilitating to those who experience it, and it is as unpredictable as it is unavoidable. The very real hardship that our trauma-affected students experienced when we required them to engage with the problem was a product of their experiences outside of the classroom, but the problem injected those traumatic experiences into the learning environment.

Viewed through a TIP lens, the Title IX problem, although perfect in the abstract, was not a good fit for a capstone project in a required first-year course.[215] For students, the course is a high-stakes environment, and their performance in this foundational course has repercussions both for the success of their future learning in law school and their professional success. Students have no choice but to take the course, and no meaningful way to avoid the problem, which is worth a substantial portion of their grades. The problem’s fact pattern and the cases that students encounter in their research evoke traumatic events that many students are likely to have personally experienced, perhaps very recently.[216] Not only does the collective impact of these dynamics make blunting the impact of this trauma on students almost impossible, but the problem was not uniquely able to serve the learning objectives that caused us to select it. Other writing and research topics could provoke students to consider the impact of gender bias on society and the law.

Yet, the Title IX problem retains all of the strengths as a writing problem that led my colleagues and I to first adopt it, including its capacity to force students to manage their own discomfort with the difficult but important topic of gender-based discrimination and sexual violence. For that reason, I will keep the exercise in my files of possible problems for an elective, upper division writing class. In that very different context, I would be able to give students notice that the course will grapple with trauma topics, by disclosing in the course catalog description that the course will use problems centered on sexual violence and Title IX law. That notice would allow students to make meaningful decisions for themselves about whether to engage with the material. In a context in which students choose to do the problem, the problem would be able to live up to its potential as a powerful teaching tool, and its trauma implications could be more effectively managed using trauma-informed teaching practices.

Therein lies the lesson that legal educators should draw from TIP scholarship and theory: no topic is entirely off the table for a law school problem, but some topics will be off the table in some courses and in some circumstances. Legal writing professors need not and cannot shy away from topics that make students uncomfortable or that might risk activating a trauma response. But professors should always consider the context in which they teach and design problems, following the principle to “first do no unnecessary harm.”

  1. 1 Indeed, the simulation has most, if not all, of the features that the problem-design literature identifies as ideal in a project of its kind. See, e.g., Leonore F. Carpenter & Bonny Tavares, Learning by Accident, Learning by Design: Thinking About the Production of Substantive Knowledge in the LRW Classroom, 88 U.M.K.C. L. Rev. 39, 45 (2019); Ellie Margolis & Susan L. DeJarnatt, Moving Beyond Product to Process: Building a Better LRW Program, 46 Santa Clara L. Rev. 93, 95 (2005); Amy E. Sloan, Erasing Lines: Integrating the Law School Curriculum, 1 J. Ass’n Legal Writing Dirs. 3, 6 (2002). Lorraine Bannai, Anne Enquist, Judith Maier & Susan McClellan, Sailing Through Designing Memo Assignments, 5 Legal Writing 193, 199-208 (1999); Grace Tonner & Diana Pratt, Selecting and Designing Effective Legal Writing Problems, 3 Legal Writing 163, 166 (1997).

  2. See generally Susan Bryant, The Five Habits: Building Cross-Cultural Competence in Lawyers, 8 Clinical L. Rev. 33 (2001).

  3. See Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, Foundations for Practice: Survey Overview and Methodological Approach (2016).

  4. The dilemma is particularly daunting for professors who seek to explore the role of the law in social justice movements or address the interactions between the law and race or other aspects of social identity in their courses. See generally Sha-Shana Crichton, Incorporating Social Justice into the 1L Legal Writing Course: A Tool for Empowering Students of Color and of Historically Marginalized Groups and Improving Learning, 24 Mich. J. Race & L. 251 (2019); Pamela Edwards & Sheila Vance, Teaching Social Justice Through Legal Writing, 7 Legal Writing 63 (2001); Brooke K. Baker, 9(2) Persp.: Teaching Legal Rsch. & Writing 51 (2001). Underlying all of the most pressing social justice issues of our time are experiences of trauma at both the individual and community level. We cannot talk about the law’s role in the racial justice movement without talking about racism, for example. See L. Callid Keefe-Perry & Zachary Moon, Courage In Chaos: The Importance of Trauma-Informed Adult Religious Education, 114 Religious Educ. 30, 31 (2019) (“Trauma is not only generated by a given action on a given day, but also subject to the structures and systems that were conducive to that event occurring. For example, an instance of domestic violence in a heterosexual couple must be considered both as the incident of assault and as interpersonal intimate violence produced by patriarchal and misogynistic cultural conditions.”).

  5. See U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Servs., Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Trauma Informed Approach Key Assumptions and Principles, at 13 (Sept. 10, 2018), [] (hereinafter “SAMHSA”); Tea for Teaching, Trauma Informed Pedagogy (Apr. 22, 2020), [] (transcript as well as audio available on-line).

  6. Susan Cole, Jessica Greenwald O’Brien, M. Geron Gadd, Joel Ristuccia, D. Lurray Wallace & Michael Gregory, Massachusetts Advocates for Children Helping Traumatized Children Learn: Supportive School Environments For Children Traumatized By Family Violence 4 (2005).

  7. Janice Carello & Lisa D. Butler, Practicing What We Teach: Trauma-Informed Educational Practice, 35(3) J. Teaching Soc. Work 262, 263 (2015) (noting that an estimated 9% to 12% of college freshmen meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”)); Bruce D. Perry, Fear and Learning: Trauma-Related Factors in the Adult Education Process, 110 New Directions for Adult & Continuing Educ. 21, 21 (2006).

  8. Perry, supra note 7, at 21.

  9. See Darryl W. Stephens, Trauma-Informed Pedagogy for the Religious and Theological Higher Education Classroom, 11 Religions 449, 454 (2020) (noting that recently “the topic of trauma and pedagogy has risen in priority for many instructors in higher education.”).

  10. To date, the legal academy has been largely silent as to TIP theory and trauma informed educational practice. There have been significant contributions concerning teaching trauma informed lawyering and preparing students to deal with client trauma in clinical settings. See Sarah Katz & Deeya Haldar, The Pedagogy of Trauma-Informed Lawyering, 22 Clinical L. Rev. 359 (2016); Annie S. Lemoine, Good Storytelling: A Trauma-Informed Approach to the Preparation of Domestic Violence-Related Asylum Claims, 19 Loy. J. Pub. Int. L. 27 (2017); Susan Ayres, Trauma-Informed Advocacy: Learning to Empathize with Unspeakable Horrors, 26 Wm. & Mary J. Race, Gender & Soc. Just. 225 (2020). However, there have been almost no pieces dedicated to the distinct topic of trauma informed legal teaching. Sarah Katz’s recent article, The Trauma-Informed Law Classroom: Incorporating Principles of Trauma-Informed Practice into the Pandemic Age Law School Classroom, 25 U.C. Davis J. Juv. L. & Pol’y 17 (2020), is notable for its singularity, and, as its title reflects, trauma informed legal teaching received little attention until the exigencies of 2020 forced such conversations to the fore. Indeed, higher education as a whole has lagged behind K-12 educators with respect to integrating trauma informed educational practices into its curricula and institutions. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 264; Tea for Teaching, supra note 5.

  11. Traumatologists are medical doctors with clinical and scholarly expertise in the treatment of trauma. Many of the founders and most prominent members of the field, including Herman, van der Kolk, and Perry, are psychiatrists.

  12. See SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 6 (a “trauma event,” as “an event, series of events, or set of circumstances” that is capable of activating a trauma response); CDC, Coping with a Traumatic Event, [] (“When [an] event, or series of events, causes a lot of stress, it is called a traumatic event”).

  13. This article alternates between using she/her, he/his, and they/their pronouns in recognition that people of all genders are lawyers, professors, and affected by trauma.

  14. See Bryant, supra note 2 at 42.

  15. Stephens, supra note 9, at 3; see also Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace & Gregory, supra note 6, at 18 (“[T]rauma is not an event itself, but rather a response to a stressful experience in which a person’s ability to cope is dramatically undermined”); Yang Li, Lindsay M. Cannon, Elizabeth M. Coolidge, Cynthia S. Darling-Fisher, Michelle Pardee & Elizabeth K. Kuzma, Current State of Trauma-Informed Education in the Health Sciences: Lessons for Nursing, 58(2) J. Nursing Educ. 93 (2019) (defining “trauma” as “a stress response that an individual experiences following various types of traumatic events”); Shannon Davidson, Education Northwest, Trauma-Informed Practices for Postsecondary Education: A Guide 4 (2017), [] (“Trauma can be defined as any experience in which a person’s internal resources are not adequate to cope with external stressors.”) (internal citation omitted).

  16. SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 6.

  17. SAMHSA and much of the literature on trauma uses the term “trauma event,” see id., while some authors use “traumatic event,” see, e.g., CDC, Coping with a Traumatic Event, supra note 12. This piece uses the term “traumatic event” as it is the term generally used colloquially and the one likely to be most familiar to most readers.

  18. See id. SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 7.

  19. See Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace & Gregory, supra note 6, at 18 (for a traumatized person the experience of being in a state of terror “overwhelm[s] the ordinary human adaptations to life”).

  20. See Stephens, supra note 9, at 45 (“A traumatized person relives their terror again and again, triggered involuntarily by sensory reminders.”).

  21. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 266 (urging that we should not “erode or . . . minimize the concept of traumatization by including low levels of distress within its scope”).

  22. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 4 (“[T]he same event(s) can be experienced differently based on a range of cultural contexts, as well as social and psychological variables, unique to individuals and communities.”) (internal quotations omitted); Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace & Gregory, supra note 6, at 18-19 (“Every traumatic experience is different, and each child’s response depends on his or her coping skills and resources and on the context and circumstances in which the stressful event occurs.”); Stephens, supra note 9, at 6 ("The response is individualized: “resilience and recovery look different for each individual.”). It is precisely because trauma responses are so variable that trauma experts define “traumatic events” as events or circumstances that are capable of activating trauma, rather than using more absolute language. See CDC, Coping with a Traumatic Event, supra note 12.

  23. See Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace & Gregory, supra note 7, at 19; Katz & Haldar, supra note 10, at 367. The evidence is that the greater the number of adverse events a person is exposed to the greater the likelihood that she will experience a trauma response to a particular event. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 4.

  24. Jessica Minahan, Making School a Safe Place: Trauma-Informed Teaching Strategies, 77 Educ. Leadership 30 (2019); see also Perry, supra note 7, at 24.

  25. Roger D. Fallot & Maxine Harris, Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care (CCTIC): A Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol 1 (2009); Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 263 (further noting that an estimated 9% to 12% of college freshmen meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”)); Perry, supra note 7, at 21.

  26. See Katz & Haldar, supra note 10, at 364 (citing S.D. Solomon & J.R.T. Davidson, Trauma: Prevalence, Impairment, Service Use, and Cost, 58 J. Clinical Psych. (Suppl. 9) 5 (1997) (roughly one third of us will experience severe trauma at some point in our lives); Sara E. Gold, Trauma: What Lurks Beneath the Surface, 24 Clinical L. Rev. 201, 207 (2018) (citing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Fact Sheet, Sidran Institute, []).

  27. See Stephens, supra note 9, at 7.

  28. “Traumatic achievement” is a clinical term referring to instances in which exposure to a traumatic event resulted in a person experiencing trauma symptoms.

  29. Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 263; see also Eileen L. Zurbriggen, Preventing Secondary Traumatization in the Undergraduate Classroom: Lessons From Theory and Clinical Practice, 3 Psych. Trauma: Theory, Rsch., Prac., & Pol’y 223 (2011).

  30. Li, Cannon, Coolidge, Darling-Fisher, Pardee & Kuzma, supra note 15, at 94.

  31. Janice Carello & Lisa D. Butler, Potentially Perilous Pedagogies: Teaching Trauma Is Not the Same as Trauma-Informed Teaching, 15(2) J. Trauma & Dissociation 153, 156 (2014).

  32. See Zurbriggen, supra note 29, at 224.

  33. Stephens, supra note 9, at 3 (“A traumatized person relives their terror again and again, triggered involuntarily by sensory reminders.”)

  34. Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma 55 (2014).

  35. Id. at 60.

  36. van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 60; see also Rebecca Ruiz, Why Don’t Cops Believe Rape Victims?, Slate (June 19, 2013), [].

  37. van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 60.

  38. See Karen Oehme & Nat Stern, Improving Lawyers’ Health by Addressing the Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences, 53 U. Rich. L. Rev. 1311, 1327 (2019).

  39. van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 61.

  40. Id.

  41. Id. at 52-53.

  42. See Oehme & Stern, supra note 38, at 1327-28 (over sustained periods of time the hormones released during an acute-stress response cause abnormal development in regions of the brain like the amygdala and prefrontal cortex).

  43. van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 61-62.

  44. Katz & Haldar, supra note 10, at 366.

  45. van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 61.

  46. Id.

  47. See Miriam S. Gohara, In Defense of the Injured: How Trauma-Informed Criminal Defense Can Reform Sentencing, 45 Am. J. Crim. L. 1, 21 (2018); Perry, supra note 7, at 24.

  48. Gohara, supra note 47, at 20-21; Katz & Haldar, supra note 11, at 367.

  49. Perry, supra note 7, at 25.

  50. Gohara, supra note 47, at 21.

  51. van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 123.

  52. van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 101-02.

  53. Gohara, supra note 47, at 13.

  54. Mays Imad, Leveraging the Neuroscience of Now, Inside Higher Ed. (Jun. 3, 2020), [].

  55. Perry, supra note 7, at 26.

  56. Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace & Gregory, supra note 6, at 24; see also van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 43-44 (describing trauma as “speechless horror”); Ayres, supra note 10, at 227 (highlighting that when trauma victims testify in court “the language area of the brain shuts down’ and the witness is ‘barely able to speak.’”) (quoting van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 246).

  57. Perry, supra note 7, at 26.

  58. Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 6:49.

  59. Id.

  60. Davidson, supra note 15, at 8 (citing Amy Hoch, Deborah Stewart, Kim Webb & Mary A. Wyandt-Hiebert, Trauma-Informed Care on a College Campus 8, [].

  61. Id. (citing Hoch, Stewart, Webb & Wyandt-Hiebert, supra note 60, at 8).

  62. Id.

  63. Id.

  64. Id.; Perry, supra note 7, at 24-25.

  65. Perry, supra note 7, at 26.

  66. Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 6:49.

  67. Perry, supra note 7, at 22.

  68. Id.

  69. Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4, at 35; see also Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 158.

  70. Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 158 (citations omitted).

  71. The degree to which trauma can circumscribe students’ access to a legal education, coupled with the fact that trauma disproportionately affects students from groups that are already underrepresented in the profession, see Davidson, supra note 15, at 9-12, makes accounting for trauma an imperative to creating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive law school.

  72. SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 8.

  73. Id.; see also Li, Cannon, Coolidge, Darling-Fisher, Pardee & Kuzma, supra note 15, at 93.

  74. SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 8; Stephens, supra note 9, at 4.

  75. See SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 8.

  76. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 4; Katz & Haldar, supra note 10, at 364-65 (noting an established interconnection between urban poverty and trauma).

  77. See Stephens, supra note 9, at 4; see generally Davidson, supra note 15, at 9-12 (noting that veterans, current and former foster youth, American Indian/Alaska Native students, refugee students, LGBTQ students, and nontraditional adult learners may have risk factors for past or ongoing trauma).

  78. Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4, at 32.

  79. See Stephens, supra note 9, at 4; Davidson, supra note 15, at 11.

  80. Lauren Weisner, Center for Violence Prevention and Intervention Research, Individual and Community Trauma: Individual Experiences in Collective Environments 4 (2020) (quoting Rachel Davis, Howard Pinderhughes & Myesha Williams, Adverse Community Experiences and Resilience: A Framework for Addressing and Preventing Community Trauma 11 (Feb. 2016).

  81. See id.; Davidson, supra note 15, at 4, 10; see generally Neil Harrison, Jacqueline Burke & Ivan Clarke, Risky Teaching: Developing a Trauma-Informed Pedagogy for Higher Education, Teaching in Higher Educ. 1-13 (June 30, 2020) (articulating the Australian federal and state governments’ removal of children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent from their families as a living trauma on both an individual and community level).

  82. Davidson, supra note 15, at 5; see also Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 263 (noting that sixty-six to ninety-four percent of college students report exposure to one or more traumatic events).

  83. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 5; Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 263.

  84. Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 157 (citations omitted).

  85. Davidson, supra note 15, at 3.

  86. Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 263 (citations omitted).

  87. See generally Davidson, supra note 15, at 8; Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 6:49; see also Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace & Gregory, supra note 6, at 61 (noting that “[t]raumatized children may be difficult to identify in the classroom”).

  88. Jane Elizabeth Sanders, Teaching Note—Trauma-Informed Teaching in Social Work Education, 57 J. Soc. Work Educ. 197, 199 (2021). Sanders was speaking in the context of social work education; however, her comments are equally applicable to legal education.

  89. See van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 7-21; Maria Curi, A Short History of Trauma Informed Care, Iowa Watch (Jun. 15, 2018), []; see, e.g., Judith Lewis Herman, Father-Daughter Incest 177-201 (2000) (detailing remedies and treatment for incest victims).

  90. See van der Kolk, supra note 34, at 7-21; Curi, supra note 89.

  91. See generally Herman (2000), supra note 89; Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (1st ed. 1991).

  92. See generally Bessel A. van der Kolk, Psychological Trauma (1st ed. 1987); Bessel van der Kolk, Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society (1st ed. 1996).

  93. See, e.g., Monique Tello, Trauma-Informed Care: What It Is, and Why It’s Important, Harvard Health Blog (Oct. 16, 2018), []; Elisa Kawam & Marcos J. Martinez, What Every New Social Worker Needs To Know . . . Trauma Informed Care in Social Work, The New Social Worker (2016), []; Gold, supra note 26, at 203-04; Kathryn Collins, Kay Connors, April Donohue, Sarah Gardner, Erica Goldblatt, Anna Hayward, Laurel Kiser, Fred Strieder & Elizabeth Thompson , Understanding the Impact of Trauma and Urban Poverty on Family Systems: Risks, Resilience and Interventions 59-60 (2010).

  94. See Tello, supra note 93.

  95. SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 37.

  96. Id. at 40.

  97. Id. at 43.

  98. Id. at 46.

  99. Id. at 49.

  100. Id. at 53.

  101. The work of Susan Cole and her collaborators in a longstanding and far-reaching project lead by Massachusetts Advocates for Children has been particularly influential in the development of TIP in the United States. See Harrison, Burke & Clarke, supra note 81, at 2-3. That project led to two publications, Helping Traumatized Children Learn: Supportive School Environments For Children Traumatized By Family Violence, (2005) (supra note 11) and Susan Cole, Anne Eisner, Michael Gregory, and Joel Ristuccia, Massachusetts Advocates for Children, Helping Traumatized Children Learn: Creating and Advocating for Trauma-Sensitive Schools (2013). Cole’s work and that of other early leaders in the field focused on the impact Adverse Childhood Experiences (“ACEs”) have on children’s ability to learn.

  102. See Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 6:49 (audio recording).

  103. Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7 (social work education); Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31 (social work and post-secondary creative writing courses); Kwong D. Chan, Linda Humphreys, Amary Mey, Carissa Holland, Cathy Wu & Gary D. Rogers, Beyond Communication Training: The Maris Model For Developing Medical Students’ Human Capabilities and Personal Resilience, 42(2) Med. Tchr. (2020) (medical school); Davidson, supra note 15 (post-secondary education); Harrison, Burke & Clarke, supra note 81 (teacher training); Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4 (religious education); Li, Cannon, Coolidge, Darling-Fisher, Pardee & Kuzma, supra note 15 (nursing); Perry, supra note 7 (adult education); Sanders, supra note 88 (social work education); Stephens, supra note 9, (religious education); Zurbriggen, supra note 29 (undergraduate education).

  104. See Scott Jaschik, The Chicago Letter and Its Aftermath, Inside Higher Ed (Aug. 29, 2016), [].

  105. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 264-65.

  106. Imad, supra note 54; Li, Cannon, Coolidge, Darling-Fisher, Pardee & Kuzma, supra note 15 at 97; Zurbriggen, supra note 29, at 225.

  107. See Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 16:11; Zurbriggen, supra note 29, at 224-25.

  108. Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4, at 38; Stephens, supra note 9, at 7.

  109. See Imad, supra note 54 (“[L]earning becomes difficult [as]] . . . the brain prioritizes staying alive”); see also supra, Part II.

  110. Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror 33 (1992).

  111. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 264-65; Stephens, supra note 9, at 7; Davidson, supra note 15 at 8; Imad, supra note 54; Benjamin Sigel & Jane Silovsky, Psychology Graduate School Training on Interventions for Child Maltreatment, 3 Psych. Trauma: Theory, Rsch., Prac., & Pol’y 229, 23 (2011) (“considered building safety to be the initial goal of teaching a trauma course”); see also Gold, supra note 26, at 24 (saying in reference to trauma informed lawyering that “it extends the practice through its acute awareness of trauma and places specific emphasis on ensuring the client’s physical and emotional safety in which trust plays a large role, and on intentionally creating opportunities for the client to rebuild control over their life in large part through empowering client decision-making.”).

  112. Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 264-65.

  113. Herman, supra note 89, at 33.

  114. See SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 49; Minahan, supra note 24, at 31; Zurbriggen, supra note 29, at 226 (citing Herman); Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace & Gregory, supra note 6, at 19; see also Chan, Humphreys, Mey, Holland, Wu & Rogers, supra note 103, at 188 (acknowledging that enabling medical students to develop their capacity to manage stress adaptively and for personal resilience is vital to protecting them once they are in practice and protecting their patients from adverse outcomes).

  115. See SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 38 (“‘Safety’ generally means maximizing control over [one’s] own li[f]e[].”); Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270.

  116. Ayres, supra note 10, at 252; Gold, supra note 26, at 229; Lemoine, supra note 10, at 49; Stephens, supra note 9, at 1. As a testament to how central this question has become in conceptualizing a trauma informed approach, Oprah Winfrey and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry titled their new book, released in April 2021, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing.

  117. See Ayres, supra note 10, at 252; Gold, supra note 26, at 229; Lemoine, supra note 10, at 46; Stephens, supra note 9, at 1.

  118. See Stephens, supra note 9, at 1.

  119. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270; Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4, at 38; SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 34.

  120. See SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 34; Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 263.

  121. See Stephens, supra note 9, at 7.

  122. See Minahan, supra note 24, at 30.

  123. See, e.g., Harrison, Burke & Clarke, supra note 81, at 6. Organizers gave student teachers two weeks-notice and were provided in advance with a written list of counseling and well-being resources in advance of a session in which a member of Australia’s Stolen Generations shared a first-hand account of his experience. They also pre-determined that the speaker, himself a trained counsellor, would check-in with students periodically during his talk. Id.

  124. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270 (“Allowing students to not participate demonstrates respect for limits and teaches students to take responsibility for their own well-being.”); Davidson, supra note 15, at 18 (“By offering choices for participation and encouraging their sense of agency, educators help students feel some control over their lives.”); see also Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 163; Fallot & Harris, supra note 25, at 3; Imad, supra note 54; SAMHSA supra note 5, at 36; Sanders, supra note 88; Stephens, supra note 9, at 7; Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 16:11.

  125. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270-271; Davidson, supra note 15, at 18; Minahan, supra note 24, at 33-34; SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 36.

  126. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 18 (“Educators should never underestimate the impact of sincerely asking a student, ‘What’s going on?’ This simple question can open up a dialogue and provide information educators need to better understand and meet students’ needs.”); Minahan, supra note 24, at 34 (describing a “two by ten” rule an instructor used with a child learner in which she spoke to him for two minutes a day for ten days in a row about topics unrelated to academics or the class.).

  127. See Sanders, supra note 88.

  128. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 8; Fallot & Harris, supra note 25, at 3; Minahan, supra note 24, at 35, SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 40-41; Stephens, supra note 9, at 7.

  129. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 15 (students should receive clear explanations and information about tasks and procedures and goals and objectives); Imad, supra note 54 (“A focus on creating and maintaining trust can mitigate the adverse effects of uncertainty and help students find meaning and connections in your class. That means articulating how each assignment relates to the objectives of the course, as well as spelling out the steps required to complete each assignment and how it will be evaluated.”); Stephens, supra note 9, at 7 (“In order to lessen perceived threats and to provide a conducive environment for recovery, classroom teachers must be clear and transparent about policies, procedures, expectations, professional boundaries, and roles—including self-disclosure in the classroom.”); see also SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 40; Minahan, supra note 24, at 33.

  130. See Minahan, supra note 24, at 35.

  131. Id.

  132. Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7.

  133. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270 (“In our experience, students handle difficult material better if there is an effort to warn (i.e., inoculate) them ahead of time. This may include verbal warnings prior to viewing or discussing material during class, and online warnings prior to viewing electronic postings.”).

  134. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 8; Fallot & Harris, supra note 25, at 3; Imad, supra note 54; SAMHSA supra note 5, at 36; Stephens, supra note 9, at 7.

  135. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 271; Minahan, supra note 24, at 33.

  136. Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 271.

  137. Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 164.

  138. Id. at 158, 161.

  139. See generally Robert Boostrom, Unsafe Spaces: Reflections on a Specimen of Educational Jargon 5-6, 20 (1997); John (Jay) Ellison Dean of Students in the College, University of Chicago, Letter to the Class of 2020 (Aug. 2016).

  140. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 265; see also Chan, Humphreys, Mey, Holland, Wu & Rogers, supra note 103, at 188.

  141. Id.

  142. Perry, supra note 7, at 26.

  143. Id.

  144. Id.

  145. Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4, at 33.

  146. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270-271; Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 163; Davidson, supra note 15, at 18; Fallot & Harris, supra note 25, at 3; Imad, supra note 54; Minahan, supra note 24, at 33-34; SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 36; Stephens, supra note 9, at 7; Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 16:11.

  147. See Andrew J. Cavanagh, Xinnian Chen, Meghan Bathgate, Jennifer Frederick, David I. Hanauer & Mark J. Graham, Trust, Growth Mindset, and Student Commitment to Active Learning in a College Science Course, 17 CBE – Life Sciences Education 2 (Spring 2018).

  148. See Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 159.

  149. See id.

  150. Id. (citing Jeffrey Berman, Risky Writing: Self-disclosure and Self-transformation in the Classroom 251 (2001)).

  151. Id. at 160-162.

  152. See id. at 158-159; Li, Cannon, Coolidge, Darling-Fisher, Pardee & Kuzma, supra note 15, at 94.

  153. See Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 162.

  154. See Li, Cannon, Coolidge, Darling-Fisher, Pardee & Kuzma, supra note 15, at 97; Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 263.

  155. See Minahan, supra note 24, at 31; Perry, supra note 7, at 24.

  156. Stephens, supra note 9, at 6 (“[A] trauma-informed approach does not view the student exhibiting the effects of trauma as the exception. Rather, ‘trauma-informed care is initiated by [the] assumption that every person seeking services is a trauma survivor’”) (quoting Susan Salasin, Sine Qua Non for Public Health, 2 Nat’l Council Mag. 18 (2011)); see Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4, at 38.

  157. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 265. See also Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4, at 38 (“[R]ather than operating under the assumption that those affected by trauma are rare outliers and only need to be considered in unusual circumstances, we argue that almost all spaces could benefit from more explicitly trauma-informed approaches.”).

  158. Cole, O’Brien, Gadd, Ristuccia, Wallace & Gregory, supra note 6, at 1 (“Trauma-sensitive school environments benefit all children—those whose trauma history is known, those whose trauma will never be clearly identified, and those who may be impacted by their traumatized classmates.”).

  159. See id.

  160. Perry, supra note 7, at 26.

  161. Keefe-Perry & Moon, supra note 4, at 36 (making observations about religious education).

  162. See SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 6; see also CDC, supra note 12 (“A person’s response to a traumatic event may vary.”).

  163. See generally supra Section II.

  164. See supra notes 115-16 and accompanying text.

  165. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270. Whether or not students have a meaningful opportunity to exercise a choice and engage in self-protection depends in part on whether they have sufficient advance notice that the course and problem will engage with trauma topics. See infra Section IV.B.1.

  166. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270 (“Allowing students to not participate demonstrates respect for limits and teaches students to take responsibility for their own well-being. It also may help circumvent the activation of feelings of powerlessness that may accompany some trauma survivors’ histories.”); Sanders, supra note 88, at 202 ("Students should have genuine options to not participate . . . ").

  167. Placing a student in a position in which they make anything other than a fully voluntary disclosure of their trauma history runs directly contrary to TIP’s directive that students should be given as much agency as possible. See supra Part II pp. 22-25. Putting aside trauma informed pedagogy for a moment, it is also unwise to center a high-point value assignment on a highly sensitive trauma topic because doing so is likely to muddy both the learning and assessment processes. Those students experiencing a trauma response to a problem almost certainly are not performing the assigned task to the best of their abilities, nor are their brains primed for learning, and so students’ performance reflects their relative susceptibility to and resiliency from trauma, rather than their mastery of the subject matter or skills being taught.

  168. See generally Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 159-62.

  169. See Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 154.

  170. Arguably students may feel they have more choice to decline to participate in a problem when a first-year legal writing course is offered pass/fail rather than as a graded course. However, even pass/fail versions of the course are presented to students as part of the foundational first year course of study school, and it is unclear whether the fact that a course is ungraded would alone sufficiently empower students with the feeling that they could choose not to do the problem.

  171. See Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 154.

  172. See Zurbriggen, supra note 29, at 223-224 (describing research reporting that law enforcement personnel who viewed child pornography had higher mean levels of secondary traumatic stress than mean level reported for forensic interviewers of child victims).

  173. See id.

  174. See id.

  175. See id. at 223.

  176. See Li, Cannon, Coolidge, Darling-Fisher, Pardee & Kuzma, supra note 15, at 94.

  177. See id.

  178. See supra p. 23 (discussing how TIP asks professors to shift from asking students “What is wrong with you?” to asking, “What has happened to you?”).

  179. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 9.

  180. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 9-11. It is worth stressing, as Davidson herself does, that this is “not an exhaustive list of student groups at risk of experiencing trauma.” Id. at 9. Furthermore, students who have experienced trauma or who are at heightened risk of experiencing trauma should not be viewed as any less capable of succeeding academically or professionally than other groups of students. See id.

  181. Statistics published by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence indicate, “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.” Nat’l Coal. Against Domestic Violence, National Statistics Domestic Violence, []; see also Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 157; Davidson, supra note 15, at 5; Ayres, supra note 10, at 229.

  182. See Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 157; Davidson, supra note 15, at 5.

  183. See Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 157.

  184. See Davidson, supra note 15, at 9 (groups with risk factors include veterans; current and former foster youth; American Indian/Alaska Native students; refugee students; LGBTQ students; and nontraditional adult learners).

  185. This premise is consistent with the broader problem-design literature, which holds that every aspect of a law school problem should reflect an intentional choice by the instructor. Professors are urged to engage in a process of reverse engineering; first considering the specific learning objective of the exercise in the context of the course overall and then consciously structuring the problem to meet those goals. See Tonner & Pratt, supra note 1, at 163; Bannai, Enquist, Maier & McClellan, supra note 1, at 198-99. This process is necessary, but not complex. The professor should ask and answer for himself along the way as he creates the problem, “Is there a reason that I am making this choice, and is it likely to be helpful?” When the problem is complete, a professor should be able to articulate how each aspect of the problem serves a learning objective or is a neutral choice, such as deciding the events in the hypo happened on Third Street rather than on Fourth Street.

  186. Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 265; see also Fallot & Harris, supra note 25, at 2.

  187. Imad, supra note 54.

  188. Lemoine, supra note 10, at 51 (quoting Sarah Katz & Deeya Haldar, The Pedagogy of Trauma-Informed Lawyering, 22 Clinical L. Rev. 359, 387 (2016).

  189. See Carello & Butler, supra note 7 at 270; Davidson supra note 15, at 18; see also; Fallot & Harris, supra note 25, at 3; Imad, supra note 54; SAMHSA supra note 5, at 36; Sanders, supra note 88, at 202; Stephens, supra note 9, at 7; Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 16:11.

  190. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270-271; Davidson, supra note 15, at 18; Minahan, supra note 24, at 32; SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 36.

  191. See Minahan, supra note 24, at 32, SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 40-41; Stephens, supra note 9, at 7.

  192. See Minahan, supra note 24, at 33 (information sharing helps promote predictability and consistency, which, in turn, promotes a sense of safety); Imad, supra note 54 (“A focus on creating and maintaining trust can mitigate the adverse effects of uncertainty and help students find meaning and connections in your class. That means articulating how each assignment relates to the objectives of the course, as well as spelling out the steps required to complete each assignment and how it will be evaluated.”); Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270.

  193. For example, a law school may require students to take an upper division writing course but allow that requirement to be met by taking any one of a handful of different professors’ courses.

  194. See Carello & Butler (2014), supra note 31, at 154.

  195. Id.

  196. Although ideally, if a professor knows far enough in advance that the exercise will be used in class, that information should be included in the syllabus.

  197. See infra Part IV.A.3.

  198. See supra Section II.

  199. See Minahan, supra note 24, at 32; Zurbriggen, supra note 29, at 224-26; Tea for Teaching, supra note 5, at 16:11 (recommending that students be given a choice whether to reflect on their trauma). See also SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 36, 49 (identifying “empowerment, voice, and choice” as a principle of trauma-informed approach, through which “the experience of having a voice and a choice is validated”).

  200. See, e.g., Imad, supra note 54.

  201. Carefully structured in-class collaborations which the professor can supervise and limit as appropriate may be particularly useful for major graded assignments with trauma implications, since it is common for legal writing programs to preclude student collaboration on major assignments.

  202. Zurbriggen, supra note 29, at 226.

  203. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270; Minahan, supra note 24, at 32; Imad, supra note 54 (“Invite conversation and guidance from students.”).

  204. See supra Section II; see also Sanders, supra note 88, at 201 (“Through a relational approach students experience an emotionally engaging, and supportive learning environment.”).

  205. See Sanders, supra note 88, at 201 (“Relational teaching is encouraged, where instructors are open and acknowledge their own struggles with stress and counter transference.”).

  206. See id. See also SAMHSA, supra note 5, at 43 (noting that “[p]eer support and mutual self-help are key vehicles for establishing safety and hope, building trust, enhancing collaboration, serving as models of recovery and healing, and maximizing a sense of empowerment”).

  207. See Stephens, supra note 9, at 7.

  208. See id. (“Collaboration is essential to becoming a trauma-informed community. Resilience from trauma is greatly increased by a social support network.”).

  209. See id. (“As classroom instructors, we are in a privileged position to assist trauma-survivors.”).

  210. Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 271-72.

  211. Id.

  212. Id.

  213. See id.

  214. See Carello & Butler (2015), supra note 7, at 270. See also Harrison, Burke & Clarke, supra note 81, at 5-6 (describing a research project that used surveys to gauge the impact on students of a presentation by a member of Australia’s Stolen Generations).

  215. Law schools are required to provide writing experiences in the first-year curriculum. See Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, American Bar Association, ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools 2020-21 (2020), Standard 303(a).

  216. See Nat’l Coalition Against Domestic Violence, supra note 181 (1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States have been raped).