1 in 5 kids experience mental health conditions. So why are we not addressing the problem in all of our schools? It’s time we take some accountability.
I was raised a catholic. My parents were catholic, their parents were catholic, all my neighbors and most of my friends were catholic. As a youth I was active in the church. I attended church on Sundays, sang in the church children’s choir and completed all my sacraments. It was just the way it was. I wouldn’t say my family was very religious but it definitely gave us some structure in our lives.
Recently a mom called me because her son was having issues in school. He had been diagnosed with mental illness and was struggling. The mother was upset because her son had been suspended from playing basketball for not keeping his grades up and behavior issues. The mother was distraught because she felt having her son play basketball was his saving grace right now. It was an activity where he was fully engaged and social with other kids. He loved the sport and ultimately made him happy. As parents of mentally ill kids we wait for these moments of happiness from our children. It is the difference between falling in a clouded world of sickness and being able to see the sunshine.
It saddened me to think that in this day and age when a child is clearly struggling we are still punishing them instead of building them up. The principal of this school has said to students on numerous occasions that they are on “probation” and if they did not conform to their rules they will not be allowed back the following year. Is that how we discipline our children by threatening them?
I am disgusted that a leader of a religious educational system is teaching others that it is OK to punish and/or expel a child for an ILLNESS!! I was further disgusted to learn that these religious educational leaders are not only threatening kids with expulsion for their ‘behaviors’, but also advising parents to put children on medications to curb their behaviors. I wasn’t aware that when they were receiving their teaching degrees they were also becoming certified as clinician’s with a major in psychotropic medications. (Yes that is sarcasm)
I knew I had to help this mom so I did some research into the catholic school system. I called some of my most amazing advocate friends hoping they could help me, help this child.
I was flabbergasted to learn that since the catholic school system is not federally funded and instead independently funded they could basically do whatever they wanted in their school. Even though this child clearly has a mental health diagnosis they could still treat it as a behavior issue and punish him for it.
Is discrimination not recognized in the catholic school system?? How does a religion that teaches about love and forgiveness not understand about difference and acceptance? What does the catholic school system do with disabled children if they are not willing or apt to help them?
I am not sure how it works in other states but in IL If your child has a disability they need to be tested through their home public school for an IEP. If they need extensive services they will have to attend the public school because catholic schools are not equip to deal with it. This is not only true for the catholic school system but also our charter schools.
So let me get this straight. If your child is in need of specialized services for their education because they have a disability we no longer isolate them in a classroom like years gone past, but it is OK to isolate them in a separate school? Wasn’t the whole idea behind the IDEA act to integrate children into the general population and keep children from being isolated and discriminated against or am I missing something?
If 1 in 5 kids suffer from a mental illness then why are we not addressing the problem in all of our schools? Are we going to continuously make our children someone else’s problem? If every school would take some accountability we wouldn’t we have a better support system for our kids to succeed in education?
Julie Joyce is a Chicago Police Officer and the mother of an adult son who suffers from bipolar disorder and ADHD. Over the years Julie has been a strong advocate and volunteer with National Alliance for Mental Illness, The Balanced Mind Foundation, and has assisted with the creation and implementation of the Advanced Juvenile Crisis Intervention training (CIT) for Chicago Police officers. She is certified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Negotiation Team as a Crisis Negotiator, has conducted presentations on mental illness for Attorney General Lisa Madigan's Office and has had the opportunity to speak to legislatures on the need for special education funding. Julie has also conducted educational presentations for DCFS on interventions for kids with mental illness. Along with her son, she was interviewed on NPR, WBEZ, for the “Out of the Shadows” series which focused on juveniles and mental illness. Currently, Julie spends her time raising awareness and advocating for people living with mental illness.
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