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44th Street Residents Ask SD Unified To Get Trauma-Informed

After a double homicide took his grandson's life last summer, Ricky McCoy Sr. started knocking on doors. He intended to get his neighbors, who retreated inward after hearing more than 40 rounds fired, talking again.

Photo by Megan Burks

Residents on 44th Street continue to meet following the shooting deaths of Rickquese McCoy and Stephen McClendon on June 30. They've moved from Rickquese's grandfather's courtyard to a space at the nearby elementary school.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Once they started talking, they had a lot more to say than he anticipated.

Along with the acute trauma of witnessing a fatal shooting, they were experiencing cumulative trauma built up from years of struggling to get by and watching loved ones go to jail or get deported.

McCoy and a group of 44th Street residents, whom we started following in November, decided to learn more about trauma so they could help.

Now they're asking San Diego Unified to provide the same training for teachers.

The residents spoke at a Board of Education meeting last week to urge administrators to utilize existing trauma-informed training programs through the County Office of Education and San Diego Trauma Informed Guide Team.

Trauma-informed training refers to understanding how adverse events impact brain development and behavior and addressing the harm more deliberately.

"Children that are traumatized by many layers of trauma are physiologically unable to learn," said Dana Brown, a volunteer working on 44th Street. "They stay in the flight-or-fight mode and cannot learn. It physically damages their brain."

McCoy and his son, Ricky McCoy Jr., said they've watched children on the block struggle in school — some even dropping out — since the shooting. Cheryl Canson, whose young children struggle with the incarceration of their older brothers, said traumatic events can follow students through years of schooling.

"Trauma doesn't go away," Canson said. "It needs to be processed and children depend on adults to help them process through trauma."

The discussion was a non-action item during the meeting. The school board passed a resolution earlier this year to partner with the San Diego Psychological Association to train teachers and staff in identifying students who would benefit from mental health services.

The residents have also addressed the San Diego Human Relations Commission, which advises the City Council, on trauma-informed schools.

Earlier this month, McCoy Jr. also spoke alongside Mayor Bob Filner and representatives from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Scott Peters' offices at an event calling for stricter federal gun regulations. He now sits on the City Heights Town Council.

"If we don't address the issue, we gonna have a whole other generation of violence," said McCoy Jr. "Everywhere there's violence, there's kids. And if we don't address the subject, they'll be lost, too."

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