Stigma and The Arrest of A 1st Grader
I can’t state it enough that stigma and stereotypes are at the root of so many unfortunate events such suicides. Stigma one of the biggest challenges to decreasing suicide can be eradicated. If we as a society want to bring an end to suicide and eliminate suffering from invisible wounds we must start the conversation at home, then keep the conversations going.
What do we need to talk about? I loved that you asked! We need to talk about what is going on with our children. We need to know what they are thinking, what they are feeling and how they are handling the stresses of life. Every person is going to face stressors as we go through life; it is a part of living. The challenge is how each of us will face those stressors.
It is no secret that our stressors cause us to react in certain ways. There are times when we do or say certain things that we may later regret because of built up anger that can turn into rage. Children are certainly no different. I am extremely bothered by many instances I witness and read about daily as it relates to the troubles of children around the globe.
Recently in Sanford, North Carolina, I have become deeply bothered by an arrested 1st grader that per an article written by WRAL.com, a 1st grader is currently facing juvenile charges for assault and disorderly conduct for allegedly threatening a teacher with a pair of scissors and apparently attempting to deface school computers. Please click the attached link above and read this travesty for yourself!
There are so many reasons I am deeply bothered by this young child’s situation. For starters, I can think of 30 reasons why a school social worker should have been called prior to the police. I am willing to bet my left leg that any educated and sane social worker would have advised, that arresting a 1st grader and introducing him to the criminal justice system at such an early age is setting him up for additional trauma and will be harmful to such a young child. Secondly, this is the most inappropriate way to uncover and address the root cause of his issue, if anyone even cares about this young person.
For instance, a 1st grader, basically has learned his entire life via learned behaviors. How did he come to allegedly assaulting a teacher? What is going on in his home? Is the child faced with trauma at home that would cause temper and anger issues? Did the child witness his father chasing his mother around the home with a knife and now the child is faced with undiagnosed PTSD, which may have been re-traumatized in the classroom causing the child to uncontrollably lash out in a rage, mimicking what he vividly remembers in the trauma he originally faced (perhaps?). Any of these could have been possibilities, but now that this small child is thrown into the criminal justice system, it truly complicates the problem.
Let’s pause for a moment to give the school the benefit of the doubt, maybe social services is working with this family, hopefully this young boy already has a counsel assigned. If so, then calling the Sanford Sheriff department to arrest a 1st grader as opposed to calling a school counselor is even more a terrible idea. I am certain there isn’t a creditable counselor anywhere that would advise arresting a young child.
Calling social services early on in the inappropriate behaviors of the child would have been a better option. The mother herself may be faced with trauma or abuse and may later further abuse the child for embarrassing her in the media, and now a court room. Not to think, yet another child is set up for bullying once he finally gets back to a public school.
I must also add it is unlikely this young person will come back to a warm and fuzzy learning environment at BT Bullock Elementary School, once he is released from the eyesight of the Sanford, NC police department!
Let it be known, this hurts me to my soul for this young man and his mother. Though the article intentionally did not give very much information, there is typically no true effort to get at the root cause of many public school issues, only symptom management, and not such great management at that!
Schools systems around the country have been plagued with bullying for all sorts of reasons; many of these instances have ended unfortunately in suicide of the person being bullied. I pray for the best for this young man and his parents.
In the above situation, some educated adults should be trained to observe and recognize various concerns in all children, whether signs of abuse, symptoms of excessive stress, or characters of PTSD. If you are going to watch a child, watch a child!
In order to reduce suicides, assist someone struggling with depression, emotional distress or persons thinking of killing themselves to escape physical and emotional pain, we as a society has to get at the root cause of many terrible instances.
The main reason for my own frustration with this sad story is the number of child suicides that need to be reduced. No one wants this situation to spiral any further control than it has, though there certainly needs to be different decisions made for those in this public school system.
Additional, I certainly expect parents and guardians to know signs of depression, stressors and worst situations in their kids, but most certainly in any school district. If a child is troubled about something, we as humans need to talk to that child regardless of whose kid it is. We need to know what would cause a child to lash out in an alleged manner. If his parents have been notified several times prior to the most recent episode, maybe a Child Protective Services visit is in order, or a group meeting with a social worker. A mother is not going to show up at any school and admit her son is lashing out in disturbing ways because she or his father is beating their son into the carpet at night!
Let’s pray no one is being abused in this story! However, arresting a 1st grader is certainly putting him on the fast track to a horrible elementary school experience, and a fast track to nowhere unless someone that cares steps in to ensure first, that the child gets someone’s first grade books to continue to learn while he is out of school. Next, I would expect somebody’s pastor, minister, clergy, rabbi or bishop to reach out to this entire family to help them turn this horrible set of decisions by supposedly educated people around, and lastly I hope the superindent of this school district put better practices in place to disarm a 1st grader with scissors, and make better decisions that can help a child that may already be caught up in a traumatic life changing cycle, that has the potential to end the life of this young person.
Stigma prevents people from talking through these types of events. That fear that stigma causes leads many not to disclose, discuss and follow up has lead yet another small child heading down a collision course with disaster, unless someone that actually cares steps up and assists this young human that deserves the help!
Al Colvin is a Suicide Prevention Advocate, Public Speaker, MS Activist, Activist for human rights and humanitarian concerns as well as a Business Development Professional.
Al can be found on Facebook and Twitter.
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