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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.

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

Along with the acute trauma of witnessing a double homicide, 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 group has 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.

“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.”

Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her directly at meburks@kpbs.org or 619.550.5665.

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Megan Burks

Megan Burks is a reporter for Speak City Heights, a media project of Voice of San Diego, KPBS, Media Arts Center and The AjA Project. You can contact her...

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