PLEASE HELP! Trauma-Informed Fearmongering and the NEED for Legal SUPPORT...

I would really, really love any one that can help me to connect with an attorney or someone that has the ability speak to legal concerns/liability concerns as they may pertain to trauma-sensitive schools.

Last Thursday, our local district (ConVal) brought in an uninformed attorney that lectured the entire administrative council (20+ group of building and central office administrators) about the many angles of liability if they were to pursue becoming a trauma-informed district.  In short, it was fearmongering of the worst kind on the part of the senior administration that is actively want to counter becoming a trauma-informed district.  This is a district that has invested significantly in behavioral approaches to dealing with challenging student behaviors and would like to continue in such direction.

I was absolutely devastated to learn of this fear tactic by the district (though not at all surprised).  I know that many of that group of administrators that heard the presentation were devastated.  It's a backlash and one I wonder if others have encountered in other parts of the country. 

The attorney argued that screening people or asking people about ACEs violated privacy rights and brought up vast concerns related to HIPAA.  He argued that school personnel are completely incompetent to provide any kind of trauma-informed intervention in the absence of extensive training, certification, etc.  He, again (I have seen him speak in the past), made the argument that schools are not mental health centers and are not equipped to provide for the psychological needs of students.  He said such trauma-uninformed things like, "we have always been a trauma-informed school because we live in an area with small towns and everyone already knows everyone else's business.  You can't be talking and asking people about there personal business."  So.Doesn't.Get.It.  He made these people believe that trauma-sensitivity in schools = lawsuits in abundance.

This kind of fear tactic of resistance needs to be met with equal measure of examples of legal precedent that encourage educators (and other providers) to innovate, do what's in the best interest of the student, care for the greater good, I don't know.  Be a good and decent human being.  There's got to be legal precedent that says that's the right thing.

Someone, please, help me!  I fear that this kind of thinking could easily spread and be adopted by others.  We must stop this!  Can anyone offer some guidance?  Thank you very much...

Original Post

Emily- this is disheartening and not at all surprising, unfortunately. Please also post this on the ACEs in Education site - some folks are active there and not on the main AC site.  I've shared your post with a few folks I know in the field to make sure they saw your post and to see if they might have guidance.

Having informed answers to questions like these that will inevitably come up is part of the power of this community!  Hope someone can help!

Gail Kennedy posted:

Emily- this is disheartening and not at all surprising, unfortunately. Please also post this on the ACEs in Education site - some folks are active there and not on the main AC site.  I've shared your post with a few folks I know in the field to make sure they saw your post and to see if they might have guidance.

Having informed answers to questions like these that will inevitably come up is part of the power of this community!  Hope someone can help!

Thank you, Gail!  Yes, I rely on the support of this community for so much! 

I want to get out ahead of these kinds of questions.  Offer people reassurance and to also remind them that if the laws don't serve trauma-informed schools, we NEED TO CHANGE THE LAWS!  

I am going to connect with former supreme court justice John Broderick to see if he can offer some guidance/advice.  No way am I going to allow lawyers to paralyze our desire to do what's right for kids and for schools.  

Thank you!!! Emily

Jane Stevens posted:

Melissa Sadin has a lot of experience with school boards and school districts, and has done many presentations about the economic and legal advantages of a school district integrating trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on ACEs science. I suggest contacting her.

Thank you, Jane!  You came to mind immediately when I encountered this problem.  I will reach out to Melissa...since we are so close (she's in Massachusetts), I think it's time for us to put our heads together anyway (about this and a few other things).  

Thank you for the encouragement!  Emily

Hi Emily,  I can't help you with the legal issues but have a couple of suggestions that might be helpful.  You seem to be caught up in a dispute between those who promote behaviorism and those who believe in a brain based, bottoms up, relational/ developmental model like you and me.  I am in California and the  behaviorists attempted to put themselves on the level of mental health professionals by requiring licensing.  The bill did not pass.  But they remain a powerful lobby.  Would you consider reframing your program as a "Resilience Promoting" one?  You mention a "bottoms up" approach.  Go to Bruce Perry's Child Trauma Academy website and see that he is now offering programs in schools that use this approach. (Google his 60 Minutes interview with Oprah.) Go to the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard for extraordinary resources. See the work being done on social/emotional learning through CASEL and PassageWorks.  Edutopia is another helpful website.  These would be your allies in any discussion and the body based therapies are growing in acceptance and need developing. You might want to Google Birth Psychology (APPPAH) for more allies. I worked in a Waldorf School for 20 years and they certainly understand the development of the body and sensory-motor system particularly in the first seven years of life as the foundation of all the comes after.  The second seven years is about the social emotional and the third is the development of the cognitive and it is all based on loving relationships in the community. I like Fred Rogers quote "Love is at the root of everything, all learning, all relationships--Love and the lack of it."  Trauma occurs due to impaired relationships and we are beginning to understand how to promote healing and healthy relationships.  Good luck!

Barbara Jones Stern posted:

Hi Emily,  I can't help you with the legal issues but have a couple of suggestions that might be helpful.  You seem to be caught up in a dispute between those who promote behaviorism and those who believe in a brain based, bottoms up, relational/ developmental model like you and me.  I am in California and the  behaviorists attempted to put themselves on the level of mental health professionals by requiring licensing.  The bill did not pass.  But they remain a powerful lobby.  Would you consider reframing your program as a "Resilience Promoting" one?  You mention a "bottoms up" approach.  Go to Bruce Perry's Child Trauma Academy website and see that he is now offering programs in schools that use this approach. (Google his 60 Minutes interview with Oprah.) Go to the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard for extraordinary resources. See the work being done on social/emotional learning through CASEL and PassageWorks.  Edutopia is another helpful website.  These would be your allies in any discussion and the body based therapies are growing in acceptance and need developing. You might want to Google Birth Psychology (APPPAH) for more allies. I worked in a Waldorf School for 20 years and they certainly understand the development of the body and sensory-motor system particularly in the first seven years of life as the foundation of all the comes after.  The second seven years is about the social emotional and the third is the development of the cognitive and it is all based on loving relationships in the community. I like Fred Rogers quote "Love is at the root of everything, all learning, all relationships--Love and the lack of it."  Trauma occurs due to impaired relationships and we are beginning to understand how to promote healing and healthy relationships.  Good luck!

Hi Barbara,

Thank you so much for your reply and support.  I think you hit the nail on the head - strong lobby for behaviorism. 

It's very much been the foundation for how we do what we do with vulnerable and/or traumatized youth.  In my opinion, it does not AT ALL align with being trauma-informed.  PBIS, ABA, FBA, even Zones of Regulation is rooted in a CBT framework.  Much has been invested in dealing with children (and staff, frankly) in this manner.  To acknowledge that these such approaches may compound/worsen trauma would make these folks vulnerable to liability (which I actually think is coming).  Hence the reason for this flurry of arguments that being "trauma-informed" is unethical, potentially damaging, or unlawful.  Ridiculous!

Thank you for the reference to the others work as well (Perry, Skonkoff, Edutopia).  I am very much familiar with the body's of work of these folks and their respective entities.  I look forward to when their research, and the research of many others, crosses paths with education law cases.  I know Bruce Perry has served as an expert witness in various cases;  I'd be curious if any of them were about what we are discussing here.  

Thank you, again, for your support!  Many, many thanks!

Emily

Hi Emily - thank you for bringing this discussion to the Ask the Community - I suspect there are other ACEs Connection members who have heard of or experienced similar experiences.  

In California - many school districts contract with School and College Legal Services of CA as parents - we've experienced David vs Goliath when advocating on behalf of our kids.  Us parents vs SCLS - we expected that the best interest of the student would be of foremost importance and we were wrong.  I am not sure if your school district contracts with a similar agency?  Maybe there is a way to connect and link them with a legal ACEs champion? 

These folks are very active ACEs advocates - I wonder if they might know of someone to reach out to?  Here is a bit more info:  www.traumainformedlaw.org   
The trauma-informed law project is a pro bono collaborative project exploring how trauma affects the law.  And how trauma, and traumatized individuals, are impacted by the legal system. Can (or should) lawyers and the legal system become trauma-informed or provide trauma-informed services, and what best practices are emerging?

Please note HIPPA vs FERPA ED.gov Joint Guidance on the Application of FERPA vs HIPSS to Student Health Records

Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule apply to an elementary or secondary school? Generally, no. In most cases, the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not apply to an elementary or secondary school because the school either: (1) is not a HIPAA covered entity or (2) is a HIPAA covered entity but maintains health information only on students in records that are by definition “education records” under FERPA and, therefore, is not subject to the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

You are doing an amazing job of channeling your outrage into action!  Please loop back around to Ask the Community - and share an update.  This may be a bit of a tangled ball ... but I encourage you to keep seeking out the end of the string! 

Wishing you and all the students, staff and volunteers at the school - all the best! 

Karen 

Good Morning Emily,  I assumed that you are well informed about the best resources and I believe that these well respected professionals are in the best position to influence education policy on the local, state and federal levels and that your case may be the issue that could bring this issue to the attention of the public as well as those who make our laws and policies.  And there are powerful interests opposing this level of consciousness.

Perhaps the behaviorists are "projecting."  ABA and CBT are preferred in medical systems because they are "evidence-based" and are compatible with the top down model of doctor as expert who prescribes drugs or surgery.  Dan Siegel would say that the success of any therapy depends to a great extent on the quality of the human relationship and we know that ACES science provides a no blame, no shame model of empowerment that opens the door for a more conscious and loving relationship for us all.  Powerful Pharmaceutical interests support the old model and we are on the brink of a breakthrough in alternative medicine, mindfulness and higher consciousness--and God knows we need it.  I believe that Bruce Perry would be your best bet.  He is one of the founders of the Napa Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship that I recently completed. He is very personable and outspoken.  Dr. Claudia Gold is a pediatrician from the U-Mass program--check out her books.  And check out Birth Psychology "APPPAH" that has been acknowledging consciousness, and the body, soul and  spirit for the past 50 years.  And see Dr. Christina Bethell, a public health advocate from Johns Hopkins, who may be of help too.  She has a great powerpoint in support of an ACES informed care and I am currently working with a pediatrician and psychiatrist at a major medical center in California to apply the principles in a project that we are calling "Building Resilient Families." 

And I love that quote by Fred Rogers. ( a one minute video clip at www.rottentomatoes.com/Won'tyoubemyneighbor?

Bless you in your work and stay strong and let's keep in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a great discussion!  I am curious if you can have a discussion with a School Board Member?  Talking about how much money  they are spending on behavioral intervention and how much money the can save by educating the staff and students about wellbeing... it usually comes down to money and a sense of control.  Because as we know in trauma informed work... control is often lost!  And we only have control over how we respond.

Emily I would love to support you any way I can! 

Emily et.al.,

Teachers do not need to ask about ACES.  In a very sense it can open up them up personally ,as well as the district, to liability.  Teachers likely do not have the creditials (clinical training and licensure).   Many schools have specific people who are bound by professional guidelines on record keeping, confidentiality, etc. for ex. LADAC or MLADCA, LICSW, LCMHC.   At minimum districts are required to have guidance counselors.  That said, trauma informed schools  can easily mean taking a public health approach similar to  universal precautions in health care, we don't ask before implementing them.  Assuming all students in today's world have experienced some impact of trauma (including secondary trauma)  to various degrees is a prudent approach.  Barbara Jones Stern info is great.  It sounds like your district has administrator who were disheartened by this presentation.  In my thinking  behaviorism offers no more protection and has its own  risks of liablity.  A lawsuit waiting to happen is a student with an unidentified disability (Tourette's, Nonverbal Learning Disability, PTSD, Depression, Sensory Processing Disorder, S/LD, Autism Spectrum, Emotional Disability etc.)  who receives behavioral interventions perhaps detentions, suspension or worse case expulsion that is a result of that undiagnosed disability.  The argument that the district "knew or should have known" is made,  supporting evidence gathered and the district is confronting that they failed to provide FAPE which would have required a manifestation hearing before employing  negative behavorial consequences.  In addition, if interventions are contra-indicated (school avoidance behaviors resulting in being withdrawn for attendance post 18) the district is also at risk for censure. The research on and public narratives of people who experience trauma and are misdiagnosed (bipolar, ODD,  Borderline Personality Disorder are favorites) is clearly there.  A universal approach, such as Jones Stern suggests, invites students to feel safe and securely attached to their schools communities supporting collaborative relationships with parents/care-givers and appropriate referrals.  It is important to stay non-reactive as there are inherent risks in this work.  The questions becomes how do we want to minimize those risks,  do what is best for kids, families, and communities and promote positive long-term outcomes.  

Cynthia Collea, M.Ed., LICSW (NH/VT), C.A.G.S 

Federal Class Action Lawsuit -  
Here is a bit of legal background that may be useful:  

Strategies for High Need Students    The lawsuit is believed to be the first in the nation to use special education law to argue for accommodations for students whose ability to concentrate and learn is impaired by the stress of repeated violence, abuse and neglect.

Federal Class Action Lawsuit Schools that fail to address the impact of trauma on students are engaging in unlawful discrimination,” said Laura Faer, statewide education rights director at Public Counsel, a Los Angeles public interest law firm, in a video press conference.

The suit, Peter P., et al. v. Compton Unified School District, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, located in Los Angeles, by Public Counsel and Irell & Manella, a Los Angeles firm working pro bono.

QUOTE:

Plaintiff Rodney Curry, a Dominguez High School teacher for 19 years who attended Dominguez High himself, said he has lost dozens of students to violence and attends one to three funerals a year for current and former students.

“Yet he has never received training on trauma or mental health,” according to a statement from Public Counsel and Irell & Manella, “nor has he been informed or made aware of any system for referring students that need mental health services to a program outside of school.”

He has actively considered leaving the teaching profession, but stays on because of the role he plays for some students, the statement said.

“If I don’t keep getting close to these kids, who will?” Curry said in the statement.

Perhaps a good resource:

Madisien Steele, a trauma informed practitioner at Fall-Hamilton Enhanced Option Elementary (Nashville, TN)

Steele is the first person in Metro Nashville Public Schools to hold the title of trauma informed practitioner, and she is the first person in the state of Tennessee to hold a position in a school that is solely dedicated to supporting students who have experienced trauma.

https://mnpschildrenfirst.com/...formed-practitioner/

congratulations, you have reached stage 3.

First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win. Gandhi is often atributed to this statement but I think someone else said it.

Nice work, congrats on making progress. 

this is not snark, Just trying to reframe for you into a positive.

Al Henning posted:

congratulations, you have reached stage 3.

First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win. Gandhi is often atributed to this statement but I think someone else said it.

Nice work, congrats on making progress. 

this is not snark, Just trying to reframe for you into a positive.

Love love love your response, Al!  Truthfully when i first heard what the district did, i thought, “i am really onto something here!” This is the district i left because i was burned out trying to bring something the admin didn’t want.  Now i say, “bring it!”  Darkness can’t stand in light and love!

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Karen ClemmerCarey S. Sipp (ACEsConnection Staff)Daun KauffmanBarbara Jones Stern
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