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- Mental health professionals are needed in public schools for students and staff.
- I’ve chosen not to use teen suicide because I feel that it has been normalized.
- The teen jumped 34 floors to end the emotional pain caused by bullies at her school.
- School staff ignored the need of the student
Published 07/08/19 | Reading Time 1 minute 56 seconds
OPINION | By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder & editor-in-chief
Children aren’t born resilient. They possess vulnerable, little minds that must be nurtured and developed to withstand the harsh social elements that life will inevitably bring them.
Unfortunately, society fails children far too often. Adults drop the ball, and children who haven’t quite reached that level of resiliency tap out.
Mya Vizcarrondo-Rios was a 16-year-old Afro-Latina beauty from New York. She was an honor-roll student who had plans of attending college after graduation.
In the fall of 2017, however, at Harry S. Truman high school in the Bronx, Mya was the new girl, with no social support system to help her navigate the many corridors of bullies she faced daily.
Not even a full school year later, Mya’s consistency in making good grades and ambitions to attend college came to an abrupt halt when her bullies pushed her to her mental and emotional end.
Mya, feeling that she had reached her limits and exhausted all resources having contacted the school’s guidance counselor and principal with no support granted, decidedly jumped and plummeted 34-stories from her Bronx apartment building to her death.
It was a sorrowful end for a young American girl who had so much left to give and receive in this world.
Hours before her tragic jump, she was sexually assaulted or peer pressured into performing sexual acts in the school’s gymnasium by two teenage boys. No adults were present. After the incident, Mya became the target of sexually provocative jeers from some of her classmates — a new heightened level of verbal assaults, elevating from merely being teased for her body image coupled with peers pulling her hair.
Her subconscious, fooled by the evil and false words of her classmates and inaction from the school’s staff, must have formed a mental expanse that represented a long, dark and empty labyrinth with no exits.
Telling her father that she was sexually assaulted or peer pressured into performing sexual acts must have been out of the question for the teen.
To Mya, her only escape from the loneliness that the school’s principal and guidance counselor had caused — and the emotional pain triggered by some of her immature peers — was death.
The school failed her; the system failed her; society failed Mya.
If we want resilient American schools, resilient neighborhoods, cities, states, and a resilient nation, we must invest in mental health professionals for our public school students.
If Mya’s classmates, guidance counselor, and school principal had a mental health professional on the school’s campus, perhaps they wouldn’t have failed Mya.
Perhaps talking out their own problems would have given them the extra bandwidth to do the right thing.
Perhaps, Mya would still be alive enjoying her last few years as a teen before heading off to college.
It’s possible that Turman High School and many other schools across the country can become more resilient by making small but crucial changes that will yield to life-saving results.
Time has run out for Mya, but it doesn’t have to end abruptly for the rest of our students and educators.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Black Wall Street Times, an educator, TEDx alum, blogger for EdPost, and Community Advisory Board Member for the Tulsa World.