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Wisconsin’s Systemic Change to Engage At-Risk Populations

The Menominee Indian School District (MISD), located on the Menominee Tribal Nation in northeastern Wisconsin, was the only Native American LEA to participate in SAMHSA’s SS/HS State Expansion Program. Ninety-two percent of MISD’s students are Native American and 85% of students are economically disadvantaged suggesting a vulnerable and at-risk population. Historical trauma has affected the way of life for Menominee families and their children. Menominee’s economic, socioeconomic, behavioral health, and physical health issues are deeply rooted in past trauma. Yet, MISD has built upon the strengths of their students, families, and community and is seeing decreased school suspension, increased graduation rates (at 99%), and increased behavioral health visits.

Menominee’s past successes paved the way for systemic change and the integration of SS/HS practices, approaches, and principles within their schools and community. The SS/HS Core Management Team (CMT) adopted the highly organized and collaborative planning structure established during a prior grant. CMT membership was expanded to include Tribal and county child social service, health agencies, and family and youth voice. MISD previously embraced a public health approach and developed broad-based partnerships that provided the foundation needed to create school-wide and community-wide trauma informed care environments; secure key stakeholder involvement; engage families in student learning and development; and to mobilize the community for long-term change. Menominee’s culture, language, and traditions were the foundation for all SS/HS activities. Cultural and linguistic competence was central to planning, implementation, and evaluation of all SS/HS program efforts and activities. Below are just a few of the key SS/HS strategies implemented by MISD:

  • The Trauma SMART model was instituted in 4K – 1st grade at Keshena Primary School and Head Start under a partnership between Head Start, the Tribal Clinic and Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.  The goal was to systemically implement a developmentally appropriate trauma informed approach and language of resiliency in schools, agencies, and community. This is being accomplished through training, technical assistance, and on-going coaching provided to staff.
  • A first of its kind trauma informed Student Health Center was established by MISD.  The Center created a trauma informed culture and approaches to care with the support of key partners. Adherence to youth-guided principles is achieved by eliciting feedback from youth to inform continuous improvement and development of the Student Health Center. Family engagement is facilitated by a Service Team Coordinator for the Tribe.
  • Menominee’s culturally competent approach to Restorative Practices (RP) is anchored by the Seven Grandfather Teachings and lesson plans that are based on Native American principles and culture. Their whole school RP implementation model was first introduced to the entire school staff. RP is having a positive impact on discipline practices and students in MISD. 

“The Native American way of being and knowing is intrinsically holistic; hence the innate approaches used by the
Menominee Indian School District and Menominee community naturally align to
                                         those of the SS/HS strategic approaches and guiding principles.”                                                     

                                                            Wendell Waukau, Superintendent

                                                             Menominee Indian School District

Behavioral Health/Mental Health
Connecting Schools and Communities
Cultural Linguistic Competency
Early Childhood
Integration of Behavioral Health into Primary Care
Social and Emotional Well-Being
System Change
Trauma Informed/Response