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Nashville: DISRUPTIVE MOOD DYSREGULATION; just one reason students arrested

Sept 10, 2018, Tennessean: A mother's saga: School, police, arrests and a son with mental illness …It wasn't the first time her son had been handcuffed in the hallways of his school. And it wouldn't be the last. Last year, 113 students ages 12 and under were arrested in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The youngest was a 7-year-old African American boy at Cockrill Elementary considered a runaway. There was also a 9-year-old Caucasian girl from Warner Elementary. She was charged with disorderly conduct. And there was Mckinnon's then-12-year-old son. He has a diagnosed mental illness. They call it disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. It can cause frequent, intense outbursts. He has had an Individualized Education Plan for emotional disturbance since he was in kindergarten. His mother lugs around four backpacks crammed with documents describing his challenges and his medical and behavioral needs. Still, she struggles to get him the support he needs at school…. The arrests — and expulsions and out-of-school suspensions — of young students, particularly those with special needs, must be stopped, she says. And a group in Nashville led by public defender Beth Cruz is working to do just that. 'It just harms the child' PASSAGE, which stands for Positive and Safe Schools Advancing Greater Equity, is a community initiative developed in 2014 to address school discipline issues. It focuses on racial disparity in punishment and works to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline — a well-documented national trend where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of those children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, neglect or mental illness. Experts believe they would best benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are often isolated, punished or pushed out of classrooms and schools…. Now, it is asking the Metro school board to end all out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and arrests for elementary-age students, except in the most serious offenses involving drugs, weapons or violence. … Emotional disturbance and the fight for education At 3 years old, Mckinnon's little boy didn't act like other toddlers. He woke up angry all the time, shouting and throwing tantrums. At daycare, he would turn over chairs and trash cans and try to run out of the building. Mckinnon, a working, single mother raising two boys paycheck to paycheck, often would be called to leave her job to pick up her disruptive son. It was a parent's nightmare. All she could think was: "What am I doing wrong?" She was scared, crying all the time, and in a frenzy hoping to find a fix. The early feedback for her son's behavior, before the depths of his mental illness were truly understood, was "the diagnosis they give everybody," Mckinnon says, "ADHD." … School administrators determined he had an "emotional disturbance" and created an Individualized Education Plan to help assess and address his behavioral needs. Then in 2012, at age 7, he was given the diagnosis of oppositional defiant disorder, which is a persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness. … Mobile crisis, an ambulance or police If the PASSAGE policy passes, the group will work with the district to provide alternatives to current disciplinary actions, including out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and arrests….

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