37-year-old Pamela Ononiwu was shocked upon picking her 5-year-old son up from school back in October of 2018.
As she walked into the waiting room near the principal’s office, Ononiwu found her then 5-year-old son being restrained in a chokehold by one of the school’s resource officers. According to the mother of three, the staffer at The Fairview Elementary School in Virginia was holding her son at a “90-degree angle”, NBC News noted.
If too much pressure is applied, chokeholds can critically reduce the amount of airflow a person receives, causing them to pass out or potentially die of strangulation, as we know was the case in George Floyd’s death.
“My son kept trying to kick to get out of it, and the tighter the grip got,” she recalled of the harrowing experience.
School officials complained that the kindergartner, who struggles with ADHD, had been singing too loudly in Spanish class and wouldn’t stop prior to the violent exchange. Ononiwu said she didn’t know what to do as her son squirmed to break free from the chokehold.
“I repeatedly told him to let my son go. I was scared because I was like, ‘Will I also be shot dead trying to save my son?’ But I said it’s worth it because I’m not gonna be here and let my son die or pass out in front of me,” she explained. Eventually, the school officer pushed the young boy away and let him go.
Now, the distressed mother is pressing charges against Fairview Elementary School for using physical and violent restraint on her young son. She said that school officials barely batted an eye when she addressed them about the officer’s potentially deadly use of force.
“Nobody thought it was heinous that a child was in a chokehold. No one had any empathy,” Ononiwu expressed.
Pamela has now joined three other parents who are suing the school system for using restraint and seclusion techniques on children. The lawsuit accuses the school system of inflicting “psychological trauma” and “physical harm” by silencing, detaining, and punishing students among other harmful tactics. Ononiwu shared that the school agreed to settle the suit with both “monetary relief” and “drastic change to school policy” but it’s not enough.
A number of young Black children and teens have been psychologically traumatized and harmed over the last year and it’s a problem. Imagine sending your child off to school, a place where they should feel safe and empowered to learn, just to hear that they have been antagonized or potentially harmed?
Back in May of this year, a 5-year-old Black child attending Crystal Hill Elementary School in Little Rock, Arkansas was forced to use his bare hands to unclog the school’s toilet after he had defecated. The teacher was later terminated after an outpour of concern for the young kindergartner spilled over onto social media, but why did it happen in the first place?
In August, no charges were filed against Deputy Ethan Fournier who violently body-slammed a Black female teenage student during an altercation at Liberty High School in the city of Kissimmee back in January. The viral video of 16-year-old Taylor Bracey being slammed to the ground startled so many viewers across social media. Bracey said she experienced troubles with her memory and issues with sleeping from the painful ordeal, but Orange-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell ruled in favor of the officer’s “controlled takedown” adding that he “did not violate any laws in the State of Florida,” News One reported.
“Although Fournier’s actions were legal in accordance with Florida law, as a parent and a member of this community, when I watched this video, as many of you, I was angry and concerned for the safety and wellbeing of my children and all children,” she said in front of reporters and families watching.
Worrell should have been “concerned,” because what happened to Bracey could have very well happened to her child. The school system needs to do a lot more than just giving disgruntled and poorly trained staff members a slap on the wrist. We need action and we need extreme policy reform for the future of Black children’s safety at school.