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Lawsuit Filed Against District for Not Addressing Childhood Trauma's Influence

Students File Lawsuit Against District for Not Addressing Influence of Childhood Trauma

In Compton, California, a group of students and teachers have filed a class-action lawsuit against the Compton Unified School District for failing to address the influence childhood trauma has on learning.

"The case marks the first time that a federal law will be used to determine whether 'complex trauma' can be considered a disability, in which case schools would be obligated to offer mental-health services. Currently, these services aren’t always in place," according to The Atlantic.

The suit focuses on the stresses of home life in Compton, where mental health resources are not readily available in a city wrought by violence and poverty.

"The city’s murder rate, for example, is five times the national average. Put simply, this is about what the school can do to help," the article said.

In San Francisco and the states of Washington and Massachusetts, the article said, districts have a "trauma-sensitive" model in place that helps students deal with trauma and the resulting anxiety and depression based on individual experiences through healing rather than punishing for deviant behavior.

Such a model is sought by the five students and three teachers behind the suit for the Compton district.

The suit describes several students who have experienced unusual trauma throughout their childhood.

One "15-year-old boy estimates that he has seen more than 20 shootings over the course of his life, including the death of his close friend last September. He was expelled from three mainstream high schools, and, according to the complaint, is currently attending an 'alternative school' in the district," the article said.

Further, the suit details the story of a 17-year-old boy who, after being subjected to abuse by his family and being placed in and out of foster homes, was homeless and "slept on the roof of the Dominguez High School cafeteria for two months. When he was discovered by school officials, he was suspended and not offered any form of support, the lawsuit alleges."

The lawsuit could be ground-breaking for aiding mental health in schools should the judge find "complex trauma" to be a disability.

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

05/21/2015

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