An Open Letter from a Nurse in Oakland
Source Joanna Bujes
Date 12/02/17/23:41

I AM NOT AN apologist [for this behavior] but as a public health nurse I have been inside some of those homes and let me ask: does it sound like adequate parenting has happened for a generation or two, or THREE? there are lots of folks who engage in substance use to self -medicate their anxiety, fear, rage, depression, post traumatic stress, you name it, because of what was done to them, and to their parents, and to their parent's parents. I am not suggesting that this behavior is caused only by drug use. This is now multigenerational, depressing as hell, and very discouraging.

It really isn't just 'bad parenting', it's generations of severe mental health issues from unaddressed grief and loss, witnessing/experiencing domestic and street violence, from lack of nurturing, lack of hope, failure to see schooling as a means to hope or a better future. I see kids locked into bedrooms, while mom goes out and about, to keep them 'safe'. I see babies locked into car seats, diapers changed a couple of times a day, fed butterfingers bars, never mind bonding, interaction, attachment, suitable stimulation. I see babies who are depressed, yes, depressed. I see parents with huge TV screens watching loud and intense movies with toddlers, with no concept that it may not be 'appropriate', and who am I to do more than suggest that what they want to do is 'inappropriate'? Not if I want to get out of there safely. If your sons are going to be shot down young or go to prison, what do they need to know from school? Better to learn to fight, and be obnoxious, and back people off. Many youngsters are not spoken to in their homes, not given choices or the chance to express themselves in any way, except to stay low and quiet. What works for many of our children will not work for this sad subset. Not that they do not have incredible tenacity and strength and potential; not that the parents don't love their children.

AND may I say, there is almost certainly a cumulative cognitive decline, when those neural pathways have not been encouraged for generations.... you know, the ones for safety, curiosity, empathy, exploration, encouragement, all the things we hope for, for all our children.Stressed nervous systems can not learn. All I know is you can't start with the kids, maybe not even with the parents by this time. A lot of the older grandmas who used to hold it down, keep the families together, teach the kids to behave, are gone. And just to get all conspiratorial about it, I think the pumping of drugs into the ghettos in response to the Black Panthers movement was part of the problem, three generations ago. Enhanced by justified distrust of the system, entrenched racism in the culture, stigma of seeking help especially from the system, especially from mental health structures. I know there are good programs out there that help. Wish I had more answers, but I need to hear in our dialog some acknowledgment that this is a problem that is larger than teachers and testing. Oh, and how many of these kids have parents pushing them into charters (who might have $$ or resources)? No, it's all public schools all the way, baby.

It's not about behavioral issues, or a teacher's ability to control the classroom, it's about childhood mental health issues. Prolonged, intense, increasing in numbers, and pervasive.

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