I'm in abundant company because only two reporters in the Twin Cities -- and apparently just one editor (all worked for the Pioneer Press) -- thought that restraining a 7-year-old girl until she was lifeless is a story worth covering in great detail. Think of all the crap that news departments cover (the other night, WCCO-TV's headline was "Where do middle names come from?"), and then tell me a logical reason why the people responsible for telling you the "news" didn't think this was a news story.
Here's the only one I can think of: they all have healthy children. They've got a good excuse for not caring. They're ignorant. I'm not. I've watched people try to navigate the "Titicut Follies" production that is the Minnesota -- and certainly Wisconsin -- mental health system. Though there are the occasional bright lights who have figured out that it's perfectly reasonable that the most complex organ in the body can get out of kilter, far too often we found puffed-up phonies who used their education to come up with new -- and often undetectable ways -- to say "what this kid needs a good kick in the ass."
That's what Angellika Arndt needed, apparently. And she got it, until she was dead according to a Pioneer Press article, which -- unfortunately -- is now behind a premium content firewall.
Angellika Arndt, a 7-year-old Wisconsin girl, passed out after being restrained at a Rice Lake counseling center. Arndt died May 26 in Minneapolis, where she was hospitalized after the incident. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled her death a homicide.
A 7-year-old girl who died a day after being physically restrained by employees at a Rice Lake, Wis., counseling clinic was placed in a so-called "control hold" because she was "gargling milk," according to a report by state health officials.
In an investigation into the girl's death, the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services also cited "multiple violations" of state law at the Northwest Counseling and Guidance Clinics, including the law governing physical restraint of clients.
As I understand it, there's been a correction to the story. Apparently "gargling milk" was just a sample of her behavior, not the reason she was restrained until dead. As if there is a reason that justifies the death of a 7-year-old.
Now, I know what you're saying, Minnesota. You're saying, "hey, that's Wisconsin, that's not us." And you'd be right. But let me ask you this question: why is that what you're thinking? Where's your outrage?
A man gets shoved in a police car on a hot day and passes out, and the police department answers for it for weeks (appropriately so). A convicted cop killer goes to death row, and people protest it for years. Need more? Guantanamo Bay anyone? Omar Jamal ring a bell? All causes that seem to spur a "how can this happen?" response from a significant portion of the masses, a response that is documented by reporters and anchor people, thanks to people like me who determine that it's "news."
Here's another confession -- or more accurately, a disclaimer. My wife spends an inordinate amount of time working on behalf of parents of mentally ill children in Minnesota, trying to get the system to recognize the value of parents as partners in mental health treatment. Far too often, from the stories she tells me, some mental health "professionals" think parents are the ones to whom you say "thanks for your kid, now go away while we 'treat' her," just before they slam the door, and -- occasionally -- kill their patients.
I've often wondered why she spends so much time trying to change the system, rather than just telling the parents who call for help during a crisis, "shave his head, give him some crutches, schedule a fundraiser, and call the newsrooms." The people with the healthy kids who run newsrooms respond to that.
But we -- I -- didn't respond to Angellika Arndt. I think my wife gave me a "heads up" that this had happened before the Pioneer Press printed the article. And I did what so many other people do, except that I didn't even put enough effort into it to shrug my shoulders. I just said "oh well. It happens," and turned up the volume on the ballgame.
We deal in "facts" in the news business. Here's a couple of facts: there's no reason a 7-year-old girl should die while in the hands of mental health "professionals" and there's no reason I and the people in my business should ignore the situation when one does.
But we did.
Shame on me and the people in the news business. Shame on you for not kicking our ass.