Rochester: Child Trauma at the Hands of “Peace Officers”

Black Children as Young as 9 Years Old Experience Racial Trauma, Violence and Abuse from Those Sworn in to Protect and Serve


On Friday, January 29th at 3:20 pm in Rochester, New York, a 9-year-old Black girl was pepper-sprayed by authorities who were called to her home. The Rochester Police Department (RPD) released the videos from officers’ body cams on Sunday, January 31st. As outcries from the public continue to pour in, Governor Andrew Cuomo stated: “This isn’t how the police should treat anyone, let alone a 9-year-old girl.”

By now, many are aware of what took place: A call was made to the RPD regarding what was described as “family trouble.” Seriously, RPD was informed that the child was suicidal and threatened to kill herself and her mother. Initially, in the first video, you can see the officer attempting to work with the child; however, when he grabs her, she becomes agitated (rightfully so). The situation escalates further when her mother arrives and begins speaking with her daughter. I could not bear to watch it any further and stopped at 3:15 into the 10:53 duration. When squad cars arrive at the scene where the officer, mother, and daughter are standing out in the cold, the situation worsens. You can see the second video here.

Many of you may ask, “Why is this the top story in Education?”  Well, it’s simple. Schools must be aware of the environmental stressors that a significant amount of our children experience at home on top of COVID. Domestic violence and child abuse should be strongly considered during this pandemic. Children should not be expected to “do their work and concentrate online” when they may be experiencing trauma at home. Yes, teachers are here to teach;  however, counselors, social workers, and other mental health crisis professionals are needed now more than ever to work with children remotely and to prepare them for the enormous amount of work that lies ahead when or if we are to return to in-person learning.

Schools, just as police departments, must account for this intervention. Communities are advocating for reform and schools must hire mental health professionals to address crisis calls —versus sending out school resource or police officers. THE POLICE are not counselors, nor are they mental health professionals. When family crisis calls occur, officers should not be sent out unless they are trained and certified in crisis intervention. We need our elected officials to understand that it’s unfathomable for a young child to be handcuffed as she lay face down in the snow, crying out for her father, then pleading for a female officer (to no avail). She was then taunted and told by a police officer that she is acting like a child. Her response? “I am a child.” This young Black girl was treated as an adult criminal and the pervasive patterns of injustice displayed by law enforcement correlate with research that shows the adultification of Black children who are not viewed as youths. Monique Morris describes this horrific act as PUSHOUT, the Criminalization of Black Girls.

Schools and school policing across the nation have similar patterns of “disciplining” and traumatizing our children. Specifically, Black children. When teachers call in school or campus police instead of counselors, social workers, and mental health providers to control rather than to intervene when children are experiencing stress in school, Black children continue to experience higher rates of trauma and harm at school than their non-Black peers. Here in San Diego, this also applies to our Native American (Indigenous) boys. When you look at the data, you see the patterns of disproportionality.

We are aware that her parents called the authorities but let’s be clear: Coronavirus continues to impact our entire society and, while children may not be physically more vulnerable to COVID-19 (although recent cases are proving otherwise), the toll on their mental health and well-being is beyond concerning. Except for Zoom/Google Meet, many children are cut off from social interaction with their peers. Unable to play with friends, children are experiencing depression and loneliness. Suicide is on the rise and children are dealing with an unprecedented mental health crisis. Now top this off with the realities of being Black in America as is the case with our 9-year-0ld in Rochester, we can no longer go back to the way things were in the past. We must address anti-Blackness in schools and take into account the Mundane Extreme Environmental Stress and African American Families: A Case for Recognizing Different Realities that our children experience both at home and school. Our children are not criminals; they are children. Let’s end the mistreatment of Black children by understanding their pain and treating them like the humans they are. It’s time for racial healing and culturally competent trauma-informed practices.

On Monday February 22nd from 5 pm to 7 pm and Saturday, February 27th from 10 am to 12 pm, join us for our 2-Part Education Symposium on Improving the Outcomes for African American Children in San Diego.


Click here for more information and to register:

Please note: We will include a section on Mental Health as it relates to Education and trauma informed teaching/counseling in our upcoming newsletters. For more details about Rochester (home to Fredrick Douglass for 25 years), you can refer to the Washington Post.

In the meantime:




·Feb 7

Replying to @ACSawyerJustice


If you want to do something about this:

  1. Sign the petition to have them [officers involved] fired:
  2. Email your council members/elected officials – let them know you want p*lice budgets cut & money invested into education, non-coercive mental health support, housing
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