Community Columns

Help needed for Valley children with PTSD from gang influences

Among many benefits bequeathed to us by popular media, we can count national discontentment over disparities in wealth, education and access to opportunity.

Independent Latino researchers gather to study social issues that affect the Latino population. One of many is the underdocumented but increasing number of undiagnosed or misdiagnosed children suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While the general public recognizes that Latino residents living in high crime areas are more likely to suffer emotional trauma, little or no assistance is offered. Police departments across the country have known of these conditions for decades as a result of investigations. So-called gang experts have long known of PTSD among gang members and their families, as well as their victims.

While police departments treat officers and their families for symptoms of PTSD, society has ignored the suffering of children in gang families. These innocent children were literally born into a combat zone and were often forcibly removed by Child Protective Services, then placed into foster care or with relatives. Many of these children have been misdiagnosed with ADHD, masking the real problem. The trauma of PTSD is known to cause learning disabilities that interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing and math. All public schools receiving federal funds are obliged to offer services to those with learning disabilities.

Latino children in Modesto, Stockton, Fresno and other Central Valley towns often are underidentified and misdiagnosed. Little or no research is being conducted in this area.

Children with PTSD are in desperate need of 504 designation, where plans are developed to help disabled children succeed in school. Such plans often grant extra time to complete schoolwork. The New York Times reports that white students make up 42% of 504 designations, and Asian students as much as 49%, while black and Hispanic students make up only 22%.

In poverty stricken areas, few if any students are identified as in need of extra time or other accommodations to do well in school. Usually coming from single parent families, these children are in desperate need of advocacy. As long as such questions are ignored or deliberately overlooked by Central Valley social service agencies, the problem will continue. It does reflect attitudes that provided fertile ground for the recently exposed college admission scandal.

Students with 504 designations usually receive better scores on tests and are more often offered a place in specialized schools. As in all cases of preferential treatment, each side has experts who present their arguments. As with the admissions scandal, it’s white and wealthy parents gaming the system in order to give their kids additional advantages.

Jorge Martinez, a former deputy sheriff, lives in Newman. He wrote this commentary for The Modesto Bee.