California Educator

February 2016

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Page 41 of 59

rmando Castro took his students on a field trip one day, and out of the corner of his eye he saw that they were comparing bullet wounds. e Chavez Continuation High School teacher was shocked to discover that four of the 15 students on the outing had been direct victims of gun violence. Castro learned that being shot at, jumped, beaten or threatened is for many students "just another day in Compton," a Los Angeles County community with a murder rate that is five times the national average (the poverty rate is double the national average). Many Compton students, after experiencing and witnessing horrific acts of violence, become extremely traumatized and can't focus in school, say Castro and other teachers. Some act out and become violent at the slightest provocation, in a fight-or-flight response similar to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. Others self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. But instead of being offered counseling or other ser- vices, students are often sent to schools such as Chavez, which Castro calls the "end of the line" for those who have difficulty succeeding in regular school. Frustrated by a lack of resources to assist these stu- dents (and a lack of training for school employees to help them), Castro joined with others in a federal class-action lawsuit filed in May 2015 against the Compton Unified School District. The groundbreaking suit, Peter P. v. Compton Unified School District, demands that districts provide students who are traumatized with the same services and protections they provide to other students with disabilities. If successful, the suit would require the government to Is Trauma a Disability? Teachers say growing up in a violent, disruptive environment affects students just as much as other disabilities By SHERRY POSNICK-GOODWIN Photo by SCOTT BUSCHMAN 40

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