This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Thirteen is a tricky age for many kids. But for Kayla Hinton, the past year has been downright hellish.
In November, a man shot and killed one of her closest friends just steps from her home in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. In May, her father died suddenly from a heart attack. In between, she’s endured multiple hospital stays and wrestled with suicidal thoughts.
"Right now, my daughter is lost," said her mother, Katherine Artuso.
Kayla is no stranger to setbacks.
She suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. In school, she struggles to focus and follow directions. When she was younger, she would spring out of her seat spontaneously and walk around class. Sometimes she’d lash out and leave the room altogether.
"People would look at me some type of way, like I was a creature or something," Kayla said.
Since moving to Philadelphia in 2013, Kayla has attended three different public schools. Each was supposed to be a better fit for students like her — students who need what’s known as emotional support. Like Kayla, many emotional support students live with a toxic brew of life trauma and mental instability. So far, her family says, none of the District’s remedies has worked.
Artuso wants Kayla to attend a special private school for students with emotional disabilities "because of the simple fact the School District has let me down multiple times already."
Artuso isn’t alone.