Addressing the Social Determinants of Health

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

When children grow up in poor and violence-prone neighborhoods, they suffer stress and trauma that can be disabling and can compromise their learning in the classroom. Fortunately, research has shown that schools can compensate for these harms with teacher training in how to deal with trauma victims, curricular changes, and the use of restorative justice techniques instead of traditional discipline. With faculty colleague Professor Frank Rudy Cooper, Professor Ann McGinley is demonstrating how disability law can be used to ensure that schools adopt the needed reforms.


In an article to be published in the Fordham Urban Law Review, “Dis/ability, Racial Stress, and Intersectional Cohorts,” Profs. McGinley and Cooper analyze a lawsuit by students of the Compton, California school district, P.P. et al. v. Compton Unified School District. The Compton plaintiffs, who live in that poverty-stricken, majority Latinx and Black city, assert they have suffered numerous Adverse Childhood Events (“ACEs”), leading to complex trauma and educational disability. The federal trial court has allowed the lawsuit to go forward, but has required the plaintiffs to proceed individually rather than as a group in a class action that would simplify the process.


The article proposes an innovation in critical race theory’s “intersectionality theory” that would ensure recognition of the children’s particular experiences as members of a group defined by race, class, and other significant identities. When the harms suffered by the children result from their membership in a particular group, courts should permit the children to sue together in a single lawsuit.