One-man protest against a school’s approach to mental health

Since late January, a man in Superior, Wis., has been protesting the local school’s “de-escalation room,” a room where some of the school’s special needs students can go when things get tense for them.

Northern Lights Elementary School officials say the room acts as a “calming room” until a child can return to class and carry on.

“They want to be left alone, and that’s really not unlike us as adults,” Principal Robyn Deshayes tells WDIO. “If we’re going to have an emotional breakdown, we’re not going to want to be in a public place with people staring at us.”

But Damon Hicks, who has no kids in the school, tells the TV station that it’s a bad idea.

He reaches into the last century to characterize the problem.

“If the kid is too mental, give him three strikes,” Hicks said. “And if he’s that mental, he’s going to keep doing it anyway, so he don’t need to be in that school.”

This is what used to be common terminology for people with mental health issues, and for the most part we’ve moved to a more sane approach, as evidenced by the principal’s reaction to the protest.

“I’m glad that people are talking about it and asking,” she said. “But really, the bigger question is, what’s happening with our children with the severity of mental health needs that we’re seeing?”

She says he hopes the conversation sparks a look at inadequate mental health treatment for kids in northern Wisconsin.