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Is Mental Trauma the New School Burden?

As if public schools were not already overloaded with responsibilities beyond teaching subject matter, a new lawsuit demands that they train teachers to identify and understand the effects that prior mental trauma has on their students' education ("Compton Unified fights a lawsuit over children's 'demons,' "Los Angeles Times, Aug. 20).  

Public Counsel, a Los Angeles-based pro bono law firm, represents eight students in the Compton Unified School District who suffer from "complex trauma."  The suit claims that the condition qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, the district has failed to provide special academic and mental health services to these students. The district does not dispute that the plaintiffs have suffered trauma, but it maintains that none of them now has a physical or mental impairment.

I realize that mental trauma can be as harmful, or even worse, than physical trauma. But I question if teachers should be saddled with yet another responsibility.  All states already have mandated reporting laws that require all school employees to report anything they believe constitutes abuse to the proper authorities.  Although physical signs and symptoms are the most reported, mental disorders are also included. I fail to see the need to add another layer of responsibility on teachers. They are already expected to be parent and police. Now they're also expected to be psychologist. Where does it ever end?  

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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