An HLS team is improving the education of children who have experienced trauma
For Spencer Churchill ’15, one of the most enduring lessons of law school so far has come not from a reading assignment or a research project.
He learned it from a child.
On the outside, the 12-year-old girl, who went to an urban school near Boston, seemed well behaved and in control, but she was failing her classes. When Churchill started representing her to try to secure her special services as part of his work at the Education Law Clinic at Harvard Law School, he gradually discovered she was dealing on the inside with so many problems in her life, it was “almost more than you would believe could happen to one kid that age.”
Taken from her single parent because of neglect, intermittently homeless and severely bullied at school, the girl put so much energy into trying to hide what was happening to her that “she had little bandwidth left to focus on her work,” says Churchill. “And she fell through the cracks. Everybody felt she must not be smart because she wasn’t doing well. She wasn’t acting up, so she wasn’t getting help.”
While the behavior of some students who have experienced traumatic events gets them suspended or expelled, other students, like the girl who Churchill represented, fly under the radar.
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