Calif. Court Case Argues That ‘Complex Trauma’ Qualifies as Disability
A lawsuit filed on Monday against the Compton Unified School District challenges whether "complex trauma" qualifies as a disability, and could have implications on whether school districts across the country are required to offer mental health care and other services to traumatized students under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Los Angeles Times' "L.A. Now" reports (Watanabe, "L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/18).
Details of Lawsuit
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of five teenage students who had been transferred or expelled from school and three teachers. It recounts the students' traumatic pasts and school experiences (AP/U-T San Diego, 5/18).
The suit alleges that the students were kicked out of Compton Unified schools before receiving appropriate services to help them cope with trauma, including from mental and physical abuse ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/18).
Specifically, the lawsuit argues that students who have experienced complex trauma should be considered legally disabled under the ADA and federal education laws. As such, it argues that school districts should offer such students:
- Disciplinary strategies that are "restorative" in nature, rather than suspension or expulsion;
- Mental health services; and
- Instruction on "skills to cope with their anxiety and emotions."
The suit also states that the school district should provide training to staff and teachers on how to deal with children who have experienced complex trauma.
Mark Rosenbaum -- director of Public Counsel, one of two law firms that filed the suit -- said, "To close the achievement gap, we must deal with trauma." He added, "Prolonged exposure to trauma results in injuries to the developing minds of children" (AP/U-T San Diego, 5/18).
Compton Unified Superintendent Darin Brawley said he had not yet reviewed the lawsuit. However, he said, "We take very seriously all allegations regarding the quality of education of our students" ("L.A. Now," Los Angeles Times, 5/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.