How a tiny Native American community's trauma might impact education law (


A lawsuit brought on behalf of schoolchildren in the most remote Native American community in the United States is addressing an emerging question in public education — namely, are school districts required to provide disability services to children who’ve suffered trauma related to poverty and discrimination.

U.S. District Judge Steven P. Logan last week denied a request by the federal government to dismiss most of the case involving children at the Havasupai Elementary School, which is located on the floor of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The complaint alleges that the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and other federal agencies have failed to provide the children with even the most basic education — including health and wellness services.

In his ruling, Logan said the plaintiffs “have adequately alleged that complex trauma and adversity can result in physiological effects constituting a physical impairment.”

Logan’s decision builds on a ruling in a class-action suit brought in 2015 on behalf of students in the Compton Unified School District in Los Angeles County. In that case, U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled the students in the district could be classified as disabled due to the trauma and adversity they experience while growing up in one of the county’s poorest cities. He refused the district’s plea to dismiss the case.

To read more of David Washburn's article, please click here.

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