Researchers draw a link between classroom performance and the trauma and violence encountered by urban students, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The correlation leads to under-achievement if not outright academic failure. Preliminary research from the University of Missouri-St. Louis suggests that more than two-thirds of the city’s public school students may be suffering symptoms of trauma tied to violence. Steven Friedman of Cleveland’s Mental Health Services calls the repercussions of violence on urban youth, “the mental health issue no one was addressing.” Cleveland’s “Children Who Witness Violence” program has been seeking to counter the effect violence has on urban youth. Los Angeles has similar project, teaming schools and social services agencies.
Pia Escudero of the Trauma Services and Adaptation Center for Schools and Communities, an acclaimed intervention program serving the Los Angeles Unified School District, said cities ignore the link between violence and learning at their own peril. In St. Louis, a five-year study completed in 2003, tracked 430 children. It concluded that when children are witnesses to crime they suffer a host of problems, from a loss of self-confidence to a negative self-image. “If you’re dealing with that every day, it would get to the point where you’re not feeling much,” said Lois Pierce, UMSL professor heading the research project. The Los Angeles project now estimates that 99 percent of students in the Los Angeles system have been exposed to violence, 33 percent suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and 16 percent are clinically depressed.