Yesterday, the world saw shocking footage of a young African-American girl being grabbed across the neck, aggressively yanked to the ground under a flipped desk, and dragged across the room by a white male police officer.

The disturbing clip went viral along with calls for justice and the hashtag #AssaultatSpringValley.



The response was swift. This morning, Deputy Sheriff Officer Ben Fields was fired.

In a press conference today, Richmond County Sheriff Leon Lott stated that the girl had not been a danger or posed a threat to anyone and that Fields clearly did not use proper protocol. The Justice Department and the FBI will also be looking into the case to see if further action is needed as some are calling for Fields to now be prosecuted for assault and his use of excessive force.

But something Lott said during the press conference exposed a troubling problem that has nothing to do with police brutality.

Lott admitted that maybe this case provides a good opportunity to evaluate (emphasis added) "the role of the [Student Resource Officer] and what schools are using us for. Should [Officer Fields] have ever been called? Maybe that's something that the administrator should have handled without ever calling the officer."

So why was the cop called in the first place? What was the student doing that was so "disruptive"?

She had her cell phone out in class. According to a classmate, it was only "for a quick second," so when the teacher told her to leave because of it, she refused, stating that she hadn't done anything wrong. For that, she was ultimately grabbed around her neck and dragged across the floor by a cop.


The police action taken in response to what sounds like no more than a stubborn student shines a spotlight on the real issue: An alarming culture of control and punishment within our education system.

Under the guise of "discipline," our schools have become a place where students are made to follow an excessive number of rules and then harshly punished for breaking them.

Princeton University's Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies and faculty associate of law and public affairs Dr. Imani Perry addressed the issue head-on in the following Facebook post yesterday. If you want to read it in its entirety, here it is. But I'll break down the key stuff below.

Dr. Perry begins by saying that "Punishment has become the dominant logic in so many arenas in this society, especially [in] schools for poor and working class Black and Latino students."

The military-like school rules that demand that children be still, sit for long periods of time in uncomfortable positions, not use the bathroom without permission or stretch when they need to, stand in single file line, be silent, sit on the floor to "earn their desks," and other similar restrictions can make school feel less like a place of growth and learning and more like boot camp.

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates described his memories of attending an urban public school in this way in his autobiography "Between the World and Me":

When children break these rules, the punishment is often harsh and excessive.

In her Facebook post, Perry calls the logic behind these harsh punishments both "developmentally inappropriate and pedagogically unsound." In other words, child specialists and education experts alike know that the type of discipline is neither healthy nor productive.

And to make matters worse, this harsh punishment is disproportionately doled out to students of color.

Photo via iStock.

Just last year a report on school discipline in the nation's public schools was released by U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the results were disheartening, to say the least. Across all age groups, black students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled.

It starts early, too. According to the report, black children only make up 18% of preschoolers but make up nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions. Because black 4-year-olds are so uniquely out of control?

Those punishments often quickly escalate to police engagement.

Photo by Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images.

With the increased presence of student resource officers in schools, student actions are much more likely to be labeled criminal. According to Think Progress:

Thousands of officers across the country — many of whom are armed — are more involved in the disciplinary process than ever and exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline. Kids are more likely to be suspended and expelled for minor offenses. More children are arrested for nonviolent, school-related offenses, such as violating a dress code or walking in the hall without a pass.

The DOE report also found that while black students make up about 16% of enrolled students, they make up more than a quarter of all students who are referred to the police.

It is what experts call the school-to-prison pipeline — and it's what we saw play out right in front of our eyes in the Spring Valley High School clip.

This is the culture that not only allowed an officer to physically assault a young girl for being "disrespectful" but one in which the teacher stood idly by and watched it happen.

My heart aches not just for her but for the countless children who are treated every day with far less humanity, love, and compassion than they deserve — for the children who are treated more like military recruits than precious minds and more like caged animals than daughters and sons.


Are some rules necessary and helpful? Sure. And is discipline also sometimes necessary to create an environment that is conducive to learning for all students? Absolutely.

But theoretically, we send our children to school to learn not just reading and writing but also how to be responsible, creative, thinking, self-governing adults in the real world. Does being kicked out of class and ultimately arrested for looking at a cellphone really accomplish that goal?

The result of this punitive culture and police engagement in classroom discipline was on display, front and center in the #AssaultatSpringValley video. And while Fields has already been fired for his excessive use of force, it's up to us to demand better for all students, especially our most vulnerable, each and everyday.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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Every mom has made a face like that.


In a video recently released by The Dodo—the beloved source of all sweet animal things—a female raccoon is spotted peeking her little eyes and paws from inside a public trash bin.

It’s the kind with a top lid, making it her private cave. Meaning anyone who comes close is a trespasser. She aggressively swipes at anyone who dares approach.

The man taking the video is a professional animal rehabilitator of some sort and clearly knows what’s up. He’s seen warning passersby to “don’t go near there! There’s a raccoon in there!”

Despite the handler’s smooth talking and gentle maneuvering, Miss Raccoon is not happy as she wriggles and screeches. But still, she is successfully removed from her post.

And then, small chirps continue from the bin…

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"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

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