There's an interesting article in NPR today about a class action lawsuit by students in the high crime/neighborhood violence school district of Compton California suing their school district. The students are saying that the behavioral, learning and emotional manifestations of their traumatic experiences are being met with a punitive approach - suspensions and expulsions. They argue that rather than their schools denying them learning opportunities, the schools is obligated to help them as they would a child with a disability who wanted access to a public education. The link to the article's below.
As a clinician who works with many traumatized children, I have seen everything the article discusses repeatedly - poor concentration, emotional reactivity and anger - leading to subpar academic performance and disruptive behaviors that negatively impact school performance and behavior. While it would be ideal for an entire school district to adjust for these issues, as the students in Compton say it should, there is a small scale remedy available to some children/families that many do not take advantage of.
Though not all children who are exposed to trauma will meet criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, many of them will. If a child is diagnosed with PTSD by a mental health professional, he/she can qualify for special education services, which can include behavioral interventions and some protections from suspensions and expulsions, under the Other Health Impaired Category of existing special education laws.