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Kimberly Cervantes is an 18-year-old Compton student and plaintiff in the trauma case. The other four students involved in the case are under 18 and anonymous.

A first-of-its kind class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of five students and three teachers against Compton USD in California alleges the district does not adequately address the impact of childhood trauma on learning.

About 1 in 6 students are now diagnosed with a developmental disability, according to a 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics.

Relationships between school districts and the parents of special needs students are notoriously adversarial, and lawyers sometimes get involved in the disputes that arise. Given the increase in students diagnosed with disabilities and the costs involved in serving them, district leaders who want to provide the proper instruction and care, and avoid costly litigation, must stay abreast of the law.

A Texas law that forces students who have missed an excessive amount of school to go to court and sometimes jail has been challenged as unconstitutional by a coalition of advocacy groups for young people and the disabled.

1. Communicate. Try to head off any concerns before they escalate to a lawsuit by communicating with everyone involved. Where children are concerned, use ‘kid friendly’ language in the classrooms.

2. Involve insurance. Call your insurance carrier, informing the company of a problem. You can lose coverage if you don’t tell them the lawsuit is coming. Then determine whether your insurance company will retain counsel for you or if you need to retain your own.

3. Hire counsel. If needed, hire counsel and work out a legal strategy for handling the matter.

Updated July 1, 2013:

“Do a triangle pose,” a teacher says to her third-grade students during one of their bi-weekly yoga classes. “Good. Now a gorilla pose. Now you’re a mountain.”

This is yoga at Encinitas USD’s nine K6 schools. The poses’ names have been changed to be less religious. They are part of a complete physical education program designed to help students stay calm, focused and physically active throughout their day, says Encinitas USD Superintendent Timothy Baird.