Yesterday's SP Times ran an article titled "Ire aimed at handcuffed girl's mother." The article is in four sections, the first of which reports on public attitudes towards Inga Akins and Ja'eisha Scott. In doing so, the article treats us to an array of attacks on Inga Akins' character and parenting, attacks based only on conjecture. The second section of the article excerpts sentence-long sound bites from a second appearance that Inga Akins and Ja'eisha made on A Current Affair last week.
Curiously, the second half the article, which turns towards investigative reporting and factual information, runs counter to the theme of its title. In the foruth section, Thomas C. Tobin reports on a trip to the apartment complex where Inga Akins was living with her three children at the time St. Petersberg Police handcuffed Ja'eisha in March.
Several of Akins' former neighbors at the apartment complex said they didn't know her well because she left early for work and came home late.In the second to last section of the article, Tobin unearths some other information about Inga Akins' background. Her daughter Ja'eisha is the big sister to a 4 year old brother and 3 year old sister. Inga Akins is a single mother and works as a certified nursing assistant at a Seminole retirement complex. In 2002, Akins had trouble with a misdemeanor charge and some missed court appearances, which led to her being investigated by the state Department of Children and Families. According to Akins, she passed the DCF review.
"She was a "good morning, good afternoon' kind of person," said Mariveth Rodriguez, 34, a stay-at-home mom whose children sometimes played with Akins' children.
Neighbors said they did not consider Akins' oldest girl a discipline problem.
Rodriguez said Akins' two daughters sometimes came to play with her children on the back patio, and "they were very well-behaved."
She said she is disturbed by talk-show pundits who have criticized Akins' parenting skills.
"I think they were good people," she said. Asked about the 5-year-old's tantrum, Rodriguez said, "she didn't act like that over here."
In a police report on the handcuffing, officers said Akins arrived at the school March 14, stormed to one of the police cruisers and yelled, "Why is my daughter in a police car?"
Officers said they twice directed the upset mother away from school officials they were trying to interview. The girl's great-grandparents also showed up at the school and argued with police.
Officers eventually released the girl to Akins.
In March, at the time when Ja'eisha was handcuffed, Akins was facing an eviction notice, which seems to be related to difficulties she was having with subsidized rent payments from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. Pinellas County court records show that Akins has been unable to collect child support payments from the two men who fathered her children.
The picture of Inga Akins that emerges is of a young woman who had her first child when she was only 19 years old and has been struggling to make it as a single mother of three small children. She holds down a regular job. Her neighbors have nothing negative to say about her. The mother of children who play with Ja'eisha and her sister says Inga's children are well behaved.
Inga has probably displayed some poor judgment in getting involved with men who are now absentee fathers to her children. It was most certainly poor judgment to give A Current Affair exclusive rights to her story. In the latter case, however, I would surmise that the producers of the TV tabloid took advantage of Inga's financial difficulties and her embattled position, with few allies and advocates to support her and give voice to her position in her and her daughter's conflict with Fairmont Park Elementary School.
When Akins heard a week before the handcuffing incident that Fairmont Park had called in a police officer who threatened Ja'eisha with handcuffs, Akins told the school to stay away from her daughter. When Akins arrived at Fairmont Park on March 14 and found her daughter in the back of a police car, she yelled at school officials. These are responses of a parent who is appropriately protective of her daughter.
Recall the comments of clinical psychologist Patricia J. Shiflett:
"A normal tantrum would be verbal refusal to obey, to cry or scream and to do that for a brief period of time, maybe five or 10 minutes . . ."Could it be possible that Inga Akins was doing a fine job parenting Ja'eisha Scott, despite challenging circumstances? Could it be possible that Ja'eisha is a perfectly pleasant, generally well-behaved little girl in most situations? Is it possible that when she was at Fairmount Park, Ja'eisha faced hostilities from teachers and/or the assistant principal that made the five year old reactive in ways that she had no cause to be elsewhere?
This was "an example of extreme fight or flight," a response in which "you either run from or you fight with what you perceive as dangerous . . ."
What's Race Got To Do With It?