By Kevin Parker
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, rates for African-American children attempting suicide swiftly ascended—surpassing the numbers of their white counterparts. The already deleterious stressors of police violence, racism, poverty, domestic dysfunction, food insecurity, and neglect are now joined by the trauma of dealing with the pandemic‘s disproportionate death toll in Black and Brown communities.
With schools possibly gearing up to resume full, in-person learning this Fall, the fear of being bullied will be added to the equation. Expecting these children to be mentally capable of focusing on their education after dealing with the dual traumas of COVID-19 combined with urban life experiences is inordinate.
In response, Senator Kevin Parker partnered with celebrated publicist turned Mental Health professional Stephanie Carnegie to introduce Senate Bill S. 5161 – the “New York City Training And Comprehension of Trauma In Children (TACTIC)” Act.
Ms. Carnegie, a NYC ambassador for the National Alliance for Mental Illness and founder of Totality Wellness, Inc. a mental health & wellness organization, provided Senator Parker with key guidelines and critical data necessary for the creation of this bill.
“Our children are coming into the classroom carrying much more than book bags and school supplies. We must change our perspective on what educating students looks like. Bill S5161 takes the whole child approach. The T.A.C.T.I.C. Act will allow all New York City schools to have the greatest potential to have a positive impact on students regardless of their trauma history. It will help bring all schools to an equal standard of excellence” – Stephanie Carnegie, Mental Health Professional
The T.A.C.T.I.C Act would mandate that all New York City teachers be certified in trauma-informed care in order to identify trauma in their students. If passed, it would also place a trauma-informed care specialist in each school to assist teachers and provide parents with the necessary resources to prevent suicide.
Senator Kevin Parker draws from his own life experiences to advance this significant piece of legislation.
“Growing up in public housing in Brooklyn and attending public school, I understand firsthand the trauma that our children encounter on a daily basis as they work to navigate through their academic and personal life. I was fortunate to have had various outlets such as my parents, mentors and coaches to help me properly maintain a balance. By introducing this legislation I am ensuring students get the professional support they need to excel. New York needs to finally implement trauma-sensitive education so that educators and parents can work together to support students’ mental health and provide relief before it’s too late!” –Senator Kevin Parker
In previous years educators have labeled students experiencing mental health trauma as special-needs. This bill would eliminate improper diagnoses and would make sure that we are treating the “whole child” as opposed to just putting a band-aid on these issues as we would have done in the past.
Kevin Parker is a New York State Senator and Chairperson of the Committee on Energy and Telecommunications in Brooklyn, New York. Served as Special Assistant to former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, Former Majority Whip and First Vice-Chair of the Association of Black, Puerto Rican & Asian Legislators and served as a professor at City College.