Poverty and effect on children: Ruling In Compton Schools Case: Trauma Could Cause Disability

7 Oct

Science Daily reported in Family income, parental education related to brain structure in children, adolescents:

Characterizing associations between socioeconomic factors and children’s brain development, a team including investigators from nine universities across the country reports correlative links between family income and brain structure. Relationships between the brain and family income were strongest in the lowest end of the economic range — suggesting that interventional policies aimed at these children may have the largest societal impact….

“Specifically, among children from the lowest-income families, small differences in income were associated with relatively large differences in surface area in a number of regions of the brain associated with skills important for academic success, ” said first author Kimberly G. Noble, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics and director of the Neurocognition, Early Experience and Development (NEED) Lab of Columbia University Medical Center…..
Family income is linked to factors such as nutrition, health care, schools, play areas and, sometimes, air quality,” said Sowell, adding that everything going on in the environment shapes the developing brain. “Future research may address the question of whether changing a child’s environment — for instance, through social policies aimed at reducing family poverty — could change the trajectory of brain development and cognition for the better….” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150330112232.htm

A group of parents sued Compton School district about the trauma caused by poverty.

Cory Turner of NPR wrote in Ruling In Compton Schools Case: Trauma Could Cause Disability:

Students who experience traumatic events while growing up in poor, turbulent neighborhoods could be considered disabled, a federal judge has ruled in a high-profile case involving the Compton, Calif., schools.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald, released on Wednesday, involves a class-action lawsuit filed against the Compton Unified School District. The plaintiffs argued that students who have experienced trauma are entitled to the same services and protections that schools must provide to traditionally disabled students.

The ruling wasn’t a complete win for the plaintiffs and the pro bono firm representing them, Public Counsel. Fitzgerald denied, for now, their request for class-action status because, he said, they hadn’t clearly established what’s known as numerosity.

The plaintiffs estimate that roughly 25 percent of the 22,000 students who attend CUSD have experienced at least two or more “severe traumas.” But the judge wrote that exposure to trauma does not guarantee that a child (1) will suffer “from cognizable trauma-induced disabilities for purposes of the proposed class definition, and (2) have been denied meaningful access to their education.”
It’s an important distinction Fitzgerald is making here. He’s not questioning whether exposure to traumatic events can disable a student. He’s saying that exposure to traumatic events does not guarantee disability. And that raises the bar for the plaintiffs as they try to define the size of their aggrieved class.
The court also refused a request to force Compton’s schools to provide additional, mandatory trauma training for staff. The district currently provides some training, but the plaintiffs argued that the program is insufficient.

Legally, this kind of request is an uphill fight. What’s known as a mandatory injunction — ordering someone to start doing something rather than to stop doing it — comes with a much higher standard, one the judge ruled the plaintiffs did not meet.

What happens next depends on both sides and whether this week’s ruling has encouraged any movement to the middle. A settlement between the plaintiffs and Compton Unified is still possible. If not, the lawsuit will move forward….

Here is an excerpt from Findlaw by Casey C. Sullivan, Esq.:

Are traumatized students disabled students, entitled to extra help and accommodations in schools? Yes, according to a new lawsuit brought by students and teachers against Compton Unified School District.
The class action lawsuit, which has its first hearing today, alleges that students exposed to trauma through violence, family disruption, discrimination, and extreme stress are disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act and are entitled to the same benefits and accommodations afforded students with more widely recognized learning disabilities.

The Effects of Trauma on Student Learning

The negative impacts of trauma can last throughout a child’s life. Traumatic experiences alter children’s developing brains and impede a child’s ability to learn, according to the lawsuit. Students who experience trauma are more likely to have trouble reading, concentrating, and learning than non-traumatized students. A quarter of all children will experience trauma before the age of 16, Susan Ko of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress told NPR.

And trauma isn’t hard to come by in Compton. The impoverished, largely minority community south of downtown L.A., is the 13th most deadly neighborhood in Los Angeles County and has murder rates five times the national average. That’s almost Oakland levels of violence.
The lawsuit and associated website detail the struggles many Compton students experience at a young age, from witnessing a murder before they’re ten years old to experiencing years of sexual abuse. Living constantly in fear and stress leaves such students unprepared for pursuing success at school, the suit alleges, yet their needs are most often met with discipline and punishment, rather than extra services. To wit: one member of the class action, Virgil, lived on the roof of his school after becoming homeless. When the school discovered him, he wasn’t offered help. Instead, the school suspended him.

A Systematic Approach

The class action doesn’t seek to match students with individualized educational programs, the typical approach to helping disabled students. Such IEPs would be insufficient in addressing the problem, according to the suit. Rather, the plaintiffs want “implementation of schoolwide trauma-sensitive practices.” That would include extra training for educators, avoidance of punitive discipline measures, and consistent mental health support…..

This government and both parties, has failed to promote the kind of economic development AND policy which creates livable wage jobs. That is why Mc Donalds is popular for more than its dollar menu. They are hiring people. This economy must start producing livable wage jobs and educating kids with skills to fill those jobs. Too bad the government kept the cash sluts and credit crunch weasels like big banks and financial houses fully employed and destroyed the rest of the country.


Hard times are disrupting families

3rd world America: The link between poverty and education

3rd world America: Money changes everything

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