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Eighteen year old female student

Credit: Screenshot of Public Counsel video

Kimberly Cervantes, plaintiff in a lawsuit against Compton Unified.

Attorneys are seeking a preliminary injunction that would require the Compton Unified School District to train all teachers, administrators and school-site staff on how to recognize the effects of chronic trauma on students’ ability to learn, think, read, concentrate and communicate.

The injunction, filed Thursday, is part of a federal class-action lawsuit that argues that the district is legally required under special education law to address the effects of repeated violence, abuse and neglect on learning.

Also on Thursday, attorneys for Compton Unified filed a motion to dismiss the original lawsuit, Peter P., et al. v. Compton Unified School District, filed on May 18 in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, located in Los Angeles.

Compton Unified School District officials did not respond to messages seeking comment on the injunction. However, when the lawsuit was filed in May, Micah Ali, president of the board of trustees of Compton Unified, issued a statement saying “any allegation that the district does not work hard to deal with the consequences of childhood trauma on a daily basis is completely unfounded.”

“School will be starting shortly,” said Laura Faer, an attorney with Public Counsel. “The needs of the children are immediate and now. It’s imperative that they won’t continue to suffer irreparable harm.”

The hearing on the preliminary injunction is expected to be heard on Aug. 17, which is also the first day of school at Compton.

“School will be starting shortly,” said Laura Faer, an attorney with Public Counsel, a public interest law firm that has filed the lawsuit and is seeking the injunction, along with Irell & Manella, a Los Angeles firm working pro bono. “The needs of the children are immediate and now. It’s imperative that they won’t continue to suffer irreparable harm.”

Faer said the training is only a first step toward the full remedy necessary to meet the needs of the student plaintiffs. That remedy includes adequate mental health and counseling services, teaching children to cope with their anxiety and emotions, and implementing positive disciplinary practices aimed at keeping students in school, she said.

The initial training can be provided in a day or less, Faer said. Experts from the ChildTrauma Academy, a nonprofit organization based in Houston, have offered to provide the training free of charge, she said.

“We spoke to the district to let them know the training would be provided for free,” Faer said. “They said they’d get back to us, but then they filed a motion to dismiss, so I think that’s the answer.”

Some teachers have filed declarations in support of the injunction.

Despite at least 90 percent of his students having experienced violence, Armando Castro II, a social studies teacher at Cesar Chavez Continuation High School, said in a declaration supporting the lawsuit that he has received no training on how to help them.

“I have never received any training on how to educate or interact with students who have experienced trauma,” he said in his statement to the court. “I have never even heard the word ‘trauma’ in a professional development training. I have never received any guidance as to what to do during or after a code yellow beyond lock the doors and don’t let anyone leave.”

Five Compton students are named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including Peter P., the lead plaintiff. Because he is under 18, the lawsuit identified him only by his first name. According to the attorneys, Peter grew up suffering physical and sexual abuse, lived in foster homes and has witnessed more than 20 people get shot. In March and April, he slept on the roof of the school because he was homeless. When he was discovered, he was suspended.

The lawsuit claims that Compton Unified violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires schools to provide services to meet the needs of students with physical or mental impairments. Compton Unified failed to take “reasonable steps” to address the needs of students affected by trauma and instead frequently suspended or expelled students suffering from severe trauma, the lawsuit claims.


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  1. Regina 1 year ago1 year ago

    As someone who has attended such a trauma overview training, I feel compelled to provide some additional information so that those that do not know what it is about can be better informed before they make judgements. The awareness training is intended to provide educators with an understanding of HOW trauma effects the brain, learning, and behavior. It is NOT intended to make educators counselors or psychologists and therefore require teachers to implement complex trauma … Read More

    As someone who has attended such a trauma overview training, I feel compelled to provide some additional information so that those that do not know what it is about can be better informed before they make judgements.

    The awareness training is intended to provide educators with an understanding of HOW trauma effects the brain, learning, and behavior. It is NOT intended to make educators counselors or psychologists and therefore require teachers to implement complex trauma interventions. The goal is to change teachers’ knowledge and attitudes and therefore reactions to students. If, as a teacher, I do not understand that students who have experienced trauma live with their limbic system in overdrive, I may misunderstand certain behaviors and react in an overly punitive nature. Students who have experienced complex trauma are constantly in a “fight, flight, or freeze” state. The brain shuts down higher order thinking and learning and operates in survival mode. This is NOT a choice by students but the brains reaction to trauma.

    Wouldn’t you change your attitude toward someone who swears uncontrollably if you knew that person had Tourette’s Syndrome?

    I think one of the main goals of the training is to help teachers understand how complex trauma effects students so that they can approach things from a position of wanting to help and support versus punish. Why is that a bad objective?

  2. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    Undoubtedly, the responsible thing to do in a district like Compton, as well as numerous other districts in CA (and the nation), is to provide staff with the necessary professional learning opportunities to deal with traumatized students. That's because the students with trauma are there now and will continue to be there in the near future. That, of course is being reactive: responding to the crisis that is here now. Yet another wise thing to do, for … Read More

    Undoubtedly, the responsible thing to do in a district like Compton, as well as numerous other districts in CA (and the nation), is to provide staff with the necessary professional learning opportunities to deal with traumatized students. That’s because the students with trauma are there now and will continue to be there in the near future.

    That, of course is being reactive: responding to the crisis that is here now.

    Yet another wise thing to do, for the powers that be that will design CA’s new accountability system is to recognize that districts like Compton are impacted by the learning difficulties impacting their students and will take that into account. I trust that the leadership now in place will do something along those lines if not overly constrained by the cottage industry dedicated to criticizing the public schools and teachers and who depend on a one-size-fits-all, test based, pseudo accountability system. Is there any academic test that calibrates for trauma?

    But, overall it is obvious that we have far passed the time when the nation needs to be proactive to deal with these issues.

    The first step is to get passed the denial that the trauma exists, that trauma impacts children in terrible ways, the trauma is inevitably connected with conditions of poverty, and the US has shameful levels of poverty compared to other industrialized nations.

    There is the national problem that trauma is experienced all too frequently by students living in certain zip codes. The US economic system, that creates high poverty levels unseen in any other industrialized nation, must be contained by government to level the economic playing field (and thereby the educational playing field) so that poverty levels are decreased to those seen in other 1st world countries and services are provided to parents and children that reduces the levels of trauma experienced by them. Then we have the levels of gun violence also unseen in any other industrialized nation that is firmly based on the insecurities, paranoia. and fetishes of a small but very well funded special interest group.

    We have a lot of work ahead of us.

  3. Andrew 1 year ago1 year ago

    “I have never received any training on how to educate or interact with students who have experienced trauma,” he said in his statement to the court (a social studies teacher).

    Then maybe he needs to do what responsible professionals the world over do when they lack skills they deem desirable – acquire the skills independently through self-education.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      Good point. They have all Summer. Read a book on dealing with kids with trauma. I’d rather hire more one-on-one tutors for kids testing poorly to work with them all summer, mandatory, than have more training. I question the expense and quality. This training is supposed to close the achievement gap?

      • Andrew 1 year ago1 year ago

        Psychological entrepreneurs can't sell drugs so they peddle "trainings." "'We spoke to the district to let them know the training would be provided for free,' Faer (of the ChildTrauma Academy) said.' Here is a multiple choice test regarding the "training" which the ChildTrauma Academy offered to do once for free if the court would order the district to provide it and thus the teachers to attend it. If such training is mandated by the … Read More

        Psychological entrepreneurs can’t sell drugs so they peddle “trainings.”

        “‘We spoke to the district to let them know the training would be provided for free,’ Faer (of the ChildTrauma Academy) said.’

        Here is a multiple choice test regarding the “training” which the ChildTrauma Academy offered to do once for free if the court would order the district to provide it and thus the teachers to attend it.

        If such training is mandated by the court in response to the lawsuit, the ChildTrauma Academy that provided the one-time free sample will . . .

        ( ) a. Post all of its magic training videos free on Youtube so that everyone, including all teachers everywhere, and their students, can obtain as conveniently and widely as possible the insights and benefits of trauma awareness and intervention, an act of generosity and public spiritedness.

        ( ) b. Ala Hillary Clinton, provide the training to those willing to pay high fees to the ChildTrauma Academy for its speakers to make select presentations, making for a very profitable “non-profit”.

        Hint for an answer. Visit the linked website of the ChildTrauma Academy. They refer to their trainings as “Products.”

        • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

          Want to look at a high profit non-profit? Check out today's EdSource article on Aspire. It was paying its CEO (and its attendant investment arm) close to $3/4 million a year prior to that person "moving on" to work for Arne Duncan. That's more than the superintendent of LAUSD gets I believe, more than any other local superintendent I have heard of, and certainly far more than most of the the CEOs of any other … Read More

          Want to look at a high profit non-profit? Check out today’s EdSource article on Aspire. It was paying its CEO (and its attendant investment arm) close to $3/4 million a year prior to that person “moving on” to work for Arne Duncan. That’s more than the superintendent of LAUSD gets I believe, more than any other local superintendent I have heard of, and certainly far more than most of the the CEOs of any other “nonprofit” I’ve heard of. Follow the money.

          • John Fensterwald 1 year ago1 year ago

            Gary: Who are you referring to?

    • Manuel 1 year ago1 year ago

      Andrew, customarily, if an employee acquires new skills on her/his own, then there is an increase on their compensation. Are in favor of such action on the part of the districts employing teachers willing to be certified as "trauma identificators" (or whatever they want to call them)? Also, will there be any certification of this training by any state agency? After all, they do certificate those who want to be teachers and school counselors. I would imagine … Read More

      Andrew, customarily, if an employee acquires new skills on her/his own, then there is an increase on their compensation.

      Are in favor of such action on the part of the districts employing teachers willing to be certified as “trauma identificators” (or whatever they want to call them)?

      Also, will there be any certification of this training by any state agency? After all, they do certificate those who want to be teachers and school counselors. I would imagine that there is some agency within ca.gov that will do the same for such important component of our schools? Besides, don’t we want our government to protect us from possible quackery?

      • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

        Gary Ravani said, "....the cottage industry dedicated to criticizing the public schools and teachers and who depend on a one-size-fits-all, test based, pseudo accountability system." And that system is what, in its current form? That would be Common Core and the assessments which he has repeatedly supported on this blog despite widespread misgivings by the two national unions and millions of teachers nationwide. Everyone has their pet peeves and I don't begrudge Gary's, … Read More

        Gary Ravani said, “….the cottage industry dedicated to criticizing the public schools and teachers and who depend on a one-size-fits-all, test based, pseudo accountability system.” And that system is what, in its current form? That would be Common Core and the assessments which he has repeatedly supported on this blog despite widespread misgivings by the two national unions and millions of teachers nationwide.

        Everyone has their pet peeves and I don’t begrudge Gary’s, but he’s using every topic as an opportunity, whether it is apropos or not, to pound home his unrelated points of contention with his usual suspects, some of whom he strangely supports. This repetition reminds me of the single-mindedness of Floyd. Anyhow, what does the so-called reform movement have to do with this trauma article ?

        FWIW, I think it is a terrible idea to pile on teachers complex responsibilities for psychological trauma intervention. A good person only trying to help out could easily say the wrong thing with dire consequences. Put the properly trained professionals on staff but don’t expect teachers to do yet another duty. You’d think Gary would have had enough of this mistreatment of the profession and support teachers rather than demand even more from them.

        • CarolineSF 1 year ago1 year ago

          Don has a point very much worth discussing here:

          “I think it is a terrible idea to pile on teachers complex responsibilities for psychological trauma intervention.”

          In fact, should it be viewed as irresponsible, if not completely insane, to expect teachers to take on the role of psychologists and psychiatrists, professions that normally require a high degree of specialized education and training? Discuss among yourselves.

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