Our children’s future and others like them are literally on the line
Today’s guest author is Pamela Ononiwu. Pamela is a mother from Virginia and a Candidate for School Board Member, for Fairfax County Public Schools, the Mt. Vernon District.
When it was revealed in March 2019 that Fairfax County Public Schools had thousands of cases where children with disabilities were restrained and/or secluded that had gone unreported to the Federal Government, I was both horrified and determined to be the answer.
Nationwide, thousands of children every year are affected by restraint and seclusion. However, the statistics show that children with special needs and those who are minorities are disproportionately affected- particularly boys. I too am affected by this statistic. Last year, my African-American son at the age of 5, was put in a chokehold by a school resource officer. When I testified before the Virginia Department of Education in March, I recounted this incident and told of the trauma it had brought our family. I broke down in tears, not just any tears this was deep sobs from one’s broken spirit. I felt like I was grieving the loss of my little boy’s childhood and innocence. He learned a hard lesson about the way the world works for kids like him- waaay to soon. The VDOE testimony was emotionally draining, but there was a release of not feeling bullied by a system that often siloed and gas-lighted parents. As I told my story, I began to hear eerily similar traumatic and horrendous stories from other parents. It was then I realized that there was a common thread and something MUST be done, as the current School Board was not interested in taking this issue head on. It just wasn’t a priority it seemed to the current School Board. It seemed to me that they said “oh, its just those kids” or “its only a minority of the children.” As if to say, “so what?” and “its no big deal, we’re the 10th largest school district in the nation!” One School Board member even said in response, “we are a victim of our success.” The problem with that statement is that the children, whom the School Board has a fiduciary duty to, are the real victims when they lose out on educational opportunities. Furthermore, the School Board in Fairfax County is charged with policy making and this year happens to be an election year.
So on behalf of my children and other similarly situated children who do not have a voice on the School Board, I am their voice. They are the reason I decided to run and braved rain, snow, heat, and wind collecting signatures and speaking to voters. Despite being a single mom of three children after their father passed away a few years ago, and my own mother passing away just last month, I am not going away until things change for the better. I have previously been SGA President, PTA President, on Staff Senate, and I even co-wrote a children’s book with my daughter. Yet this is different- I have skin in the game. My children’s future and others like them are literally on the line. In addition, the professionals at the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree- restraint and seclusion are not appropriate for children, nor are they therapeutic nor do they work to deter behavior that needs to change. However, providing accommodations that children need at school, working collaboratively and proactively with parents, and generally not treating children like prisoners of war DO work.
Join me in this movement. If you do not like what you see in your local School District, you be the change and run for School Board or City Council. We are their best advocate and their voice needs to be heard. Our kids are counting on us.