The Washington Post, LA Times and Aces Too High posted stories regarding the lawsuit filed against the Compton School district for allegedly not responding to students’ learning and mental health needs specifically related to complex trauma. The statutory framework for this lawsuit is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and American Disabilities Act. The Washington Post article provides the actual lawsuit and all three articles offer synopses of the trauma experienced by youth named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit describes and alleges that these young people experienced numerous traumas both on and off school property such as homelessness, physical and sexual abuse, violence, witnessing shootings, unsafe school conditions, and familial behavioral health issues. Three Compton School district teachers are named for the prosecution alleging that their requests to provide youth with the appropriate behavioral health services were ignored by the district. For those of us that work in the juvenile justice or behavioral health fields these stories seem all too common. Decades of research and practice have shown that trauma has profound negative effects on an individual’s overall health (e.g., neurological, biological, psychological, social). One of the more well-known studies, which is being used to support this lawsuit, is the Adverse Childhood Experiences ( ACEs) study. The major findings from the ACEs study show trauma can impair an individual’s social, emotional, and cognitive abilities and functioning.
But, what is complex trauma?