Updated: Aug 13, 2019
The following is submitted by guest blogger Amanda:
Sitting on our bed after another pointless beating, my sister looked me in the eyes and mouthed, “Go for us.” We cried for the rest of the night, holding each other. The next morning, we got up early to prepare for the inevitable: I was leaving for college. We hugged one last time, and I promised that I would be back for her. As I drove away in my ‘99 cherry red Pontiac Grand Am, I blared music to drown out my sobbing. I pondered the truth that gave me the strength to leave home and to risk everything for an education: “What's the worst that will happen? Push yourself a little further than you dare, and the world won't end” (Lorde). My name is Amanda Flowers Peterson, and this is my “why” behind joining ROAR.
When I think of my why, I think of my family. I have always been driven to achieve based on my love for them. Now, as a mother, my seven-year-old son is no exception. His inquisitive curiosity inspires me to continue every day, even in the face of adversity. Innocent and an avid learner, he will tell you his favorite part of school is riding the bus. But all that passion changed when, in December of this last year, my son got on the school bus and was surrounded by white male students who punched him in the face and told him he doesn’t belong. Since then, he hasn’t been as excited to get on the bus, and we haven’t felt as safe to send him there.
I, like most black parents, started educating my children young that when a white peer disrespects a boundary, my children do not have the same luxury to return the favor. I fixated on teaching the linear point that they should not hit. My son proved to be a great student and did not hit the other children back. However, in my training of him, I missed educating on the responsibility he has in advocating for himself. He never said “stop,” and that training mistake still haunts me. I take a measure of responsibility, as I think all educators should when seeing a lapse in understanding in the principles they teach. I wish I could tell you I have witnessed any of my son’s educators take equal responsibility for their lapse in training, but I have not. I desire to model that responsibility as a voice with ROAR.
The negligence applied in my son’s situation still makes me angry. This commitment is a part of my strategic plan to rectify that anger, eloquently. When my son got home the day of the event, he was an emotional puddle. Dealing with emotions and trauma in a healthy way is more of my strength set, so I knew exactly what to do to ensure this didn’t follow him the rest of his life. I accredit my experience in clinical psychology allowing me to do so. Though I wonder, how many other families have the same tools to extend to their children? I like to believe if space was created, families would love to be equipped with these tools. I know I would. Educational leaders must do more to consider this in their work. Families are not equipped to predetermine these sorts of circumstances and are not prepared to rectify them. This is why parents need partners in our educators. I plan to ensure this work happens in Eastern Carver County, with ROAR.
I have thought many times of what I would have done as an educational leader, who had been given the opportunity to shape the young minds involved in my son’s crisis. I would have first sought out a level of relationship with all families involved, and made notes if more efforts to grow that relationship were necessary. These notes would be shared with teachers. I would have brought all families involved together and told them my ideologies around body boundaries and consent. I would have exuded solidarity with families by explaining the importance of personal space, safety, and that violations to safety are taken seriously. I would have asked parents involved to read a book centering around consent. My child did not set a boundary, and another boy broke one, so I would discuss consent issues with parents. I then would have followed up on the incident, based on the assessment of success both boys exuded in this principle. I would have placed more focus on the victim in my assessment, rather than on the problem. In my opinion, both boys in the incident were victims of ill-equipped educational leaders. If there was another incident that occurred, or worse, the issue was recurring, I would have invited the help of a mental health practitioner. This practitioner would already be contracted and prepared to intervene in these situations. They would be leaders on my team to rectify interpersonal issues.
“Intervention and prevention” is work I am highly engaged with, but is a space I don’t see social workers leading in, especially in education. I want to prove the importance of this work and integrate it into every part of the school system.
My bachelor’s degree and work experience in Clinical Psychology has allowed me to equip families in crisis to navigate towards solutions. I aspire to do this similar work in school systems. In my previous work experience, I have led practitioners in social service spaces and directed them effectively. I trust I will be able to transfer these skills into education as I partner with ROAR to see all families served.
My passion for this pursuit is guaranteed. I am still motivated by the love I have for my family and the truth I pondered all those years ago that started my continued education journey. The truth that gave me the strength to leave for college in the first place, to leave the comforts of home, to risk everything with a promise to return: “What's the worst that will happen? Push yourself a little further than you dare, and the world won't end.” #ROAR