Tyre Nichols And Why Youth Mental Health First Aid Should Be Prioritized


Open Letter To Los Alamos Public Schools Board and Administration

When the five of us met on January 23, we found humor in Carter Payne being late to our meeting as a result of being ticketed by the Los Alamos Police for expired tags. I remember Carter feeling frazzled and embarrassed about being pulled over in the Los Alamos High School parking lot, however he was not afraid. Carter was not fearful for his life.

On January 7, Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old, African American man, on his way home from taking pictures of the sunset, was beaten to death by (5) Memphis Police Officers. Tyre was 100 yards from his parents’ home; video of his murder [which I am unable to view and would NEVER share] reveals Tyre called for his mother as he was subjected to unimaginable torture by police officers who looked just like him. He can be heard repeatedly saying, “I’m just trying to go home”.

This email is not intended to educate you about Anti-Black Racism and the insidious sickness that is police brutality. I cannot explain in an email, how the Black police officers who murdered Tyre, also exhibited racial [self] hate and probably believed because their actions were against a Black man, they would not suffer any real penalty. The complexity of navigating a culture where the color of your skin is weaponized, cannot be explained here.

My communication this morning is to make you aware, that for students who look like Tyre and/or who have brothers, fathers, uncles, and cousins who look like Tyre, there is REAL trauma being experienced at this moment. Even their denial and pretense is rooted in suppressed trauma, so as to not appear different from the “norm”, in the presence of a school community where the majority of students are relatively unimpacted by this tragedy.

Marginalized LAPS students experience traumas most in our Los Alamos community will never know or understand. And how they manage, suppress and cope with these persistent impacts to their mental, social and emotional health MUST be considered a priority in 2023 by LAPS leadership and Equity Council.

Yes, Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) is a big investment but please do not underestimate the necessity for intervention because you do not directly experience the suffering it seeks to support and prevent.

As the mother of (2) Black Men, I cannot find words to adequately express the fear I live with daily. I am grieving today. It is important for you to know that “business as usual” does not apply to everyone. Our students are not shielded from real-world disruption. There are confused, scared, and traumatized students in your presence, doing a great job pretending that all is well today.

If student well-being is a priority it begins with acknowledging supporting their Mental Health is our work to do.