Critics: Reallocate funds for better mental health services in Lexington Two

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This article was published on WLTX by Alicia Neaves on June 18, 2021.

CAYCE, S.C. — Parents, former students and social justice groups are calling for better mental health services for students with special needs in Lexington School District Two.

This comes after an elementary student with disabilities was put in handcuffs by a district School Resource Officer, following what her mother calls “a mental breakdown.”

“Physically, mentally and emotionally, my daughter suffers every day,” said the mother, who did not wish to give her name. “She has nightmares about the resource officers and the teachers hurting her.”

According to the Springdale Police Department, May 12, a School Resource Officer at Springdale Elementary handcuffed the student after reports she attacked other students and staff members. Police say the handcuffs were removed shortly after, and the girl was released to her mother.

The mother says her daughter is mentally ill and suffered a meltdown that day.

“The school district held an MDR hearing,” said the mother. “An MDR hearing is a Manifestation Determination Reveal that determines if the child’s behavior is a result of their disability. The outcome of the review was yes, meaning my daughter’s action was because of her disability.”

At a Lexington Two budget meeting Thursday, members of local social justice groups called on board members to reallocate funds to improve mental health and special needs services in the district.

“This one incident we’re speaking of is an example of how bad it has gotten,” said Shenne Ryan, President of Black Lives Matter SC and the Racial Justice Network. “Some behavior issues with children of color, black children, do not need to be involved with School Resource Officers if a mental health person was there.”

“Find some other type of resources or find other ways to phase out SRO’s in the elementary school department. I understand maybe in middle schools, most definitely in high schools,” said Jonathan Tyler, Chief Operations Officer of One Common Cause and graduate of Lexington Two. “When you have crisis prevention training, not only do the hired professionals you have handle the situation, but you yourselves know how you can aid and assist before you have to call an outside entity such as the police force.”

District Superintendent, Dr. Nicolas Wade, assures changes are on the way.

“We’re going to be hiring for the first time in the district’s history school social workers,” said Wade. “The board has approved K12 social emotional learning programs to help build the capacity of both students and staff in dealing with escalating situations and being able to make informed decisions.”

Wade says the district is also adding a full-time director for bilingual education, interpreters, and a special education coordinator.

“We’ve even restructured the district social worker position to be district social worker and family services coordinator,” he explained.

Next school year, the mother says she wants her daughter in a therapeutic boarding school. She says proposed changes so far may not be enough.

“I’m going to keep advocating and keep fighting for my daughter,” she said. “If I have to call for an IEP meeting every week, I will do so.”

An IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. An IEP lays out the special education instruction, supports and services a student needs to thrive in school.