Past Events:

November 3, 2021: “Seclusion and Restraint at Iowa City School District: Why Framing Matters,” by Tammy Nyden,  University of Iowa Libraries Staff Development and Diversity Speakers Series.

October 26, 2021:Wisdom Collective: Our Practice, Our Methodology,” by Dionne Bensonsmith, Tammy Nyden and Angela Riccio. IAMAS (International Association of Motherhood Action and Scholarship Conference).

May 13, 2021: Seclusion / Restraint and Exclusionary Disciplinary Practices in Iowa City Community School District (Presentation to ICCSD Mental Health, Special Education, and Disability Advocacy Group) Register to get the link for this online event:

Guest Speakers:
Professor Tammy Nyden (Grinnell College), Founder of Mothers on the Frontline
Professor Heidi Pierce (University of Iowa LIberal Arts Behind Bars, Kirkwood Community College)
Rachel Waller, PhD Candidate, University of Iowa Department of Sociology
Amy Kortemeyer, ICCSD Assistant Superintendent

    • How does these practices disproportionately effect students with mental health conditions, in Special Education and with Disabilities?
    • How does disability intersect with race?
    • How do these practices fuel the school-to-prison pipeline?
    • How is the District-rethinking its approach to discipline and PBIS?

April 26, 2021: The intersection of race, mental health, and the school-to-prison pipeline: Punching the Air, (Presentation to teachers at the Iowa City Community School District)
Presenters: Heidi Pierce, Dionne Bensonsmith, and Tammy Nyden
Throughout childhood and adolescence, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), especially those who are neurodiverse or have mental disorders, are disproportionately impacted by involvement with the criminal legal system in the United States. Ableism and institutionalized racism contribute to the overuse of restraint and seclusion at school and facilitate the school-to-prison pipeline. During this presentation, participants will examine the impact of bias on decisions made in the classroom. Alternatives to compliance-based, punitive, and exclusionary discipline will be explored.

April 2, 2021: 12-1 pm Dr. Dionne Bensonsmith presents “Beyond Parity: Why Children’s Mental Health is a Justice Issue” at Scripps College

November 12, 2020: “Children’s Mental Health Justice 101: Navigating Fractured Systems and Advocating for Justice,” presented at the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health 2020 Virtual Conference.

December 14, 2019 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm: Family and Autism: An Honest Conversation with Andrew Yang. Sidekick Coffee, 1310 1/2 Melrose Ave., Iowa City, IA 52246. Hosted by the The Iowa City Autism Community. Tammy Nyden shared her story and statistics about the disproportionate use of school discipline on children with Autism. [This event is part of our ongoing attempt to share our stories and children’s needs with candidates. It is not an endorsement.]

November 7, 2019, 8:30 am-4:15 pm: Disrupting the Cradle to Prison Pipeline: A conference addressing the multiple issues affecting children which may contribute to later criminal justice involvement. Click here to register.  Location: Unitarian Universalist Society, 2355 Oakdale Rd., Coralville, Iowa. Organized and Sponsored by the Iowa Justice Action Network. Addition sponsors include: The Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Society, Coralville; Catholic Charities Jail and Prison Ministry Program (Dubuque Archdiocese); Mothers on the Frontline; Living Beyond the Bards; CURE; CRUSH; and the Waterloo Humans Rights Commission.


October 23, 2019, 9:30 -10:30 am: Candidate Conversation with Kamala Harris. Hosted by Every Child Matters in Iowa. Tammy Nyden shared her story and asked Senator Harris what actions she would take to eliminate the school to prison pipeline, which targets children of color, those in foster care, LGBTQ youth, as well as those with disabilities. Mothers on the Frontline is proud to be a member of the Every Child Matters Coalition. [This event is part of our ongoing attempt to share our stories and children’s needs with candidates. It is not an endorsement.]

October 2, 2019, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm: Mental Health Awareness is the topic at this month’s South District Neighborhood Association in Iowa City. Location: Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, 2105 Broadway St. Iowa City. Speakers: Leslie Carpenter, Founder of Iowa Mental health, Mary Issah, Director of NAMI Johnson County, and Tammy Nyden, Founder of NAMI Johnson County Children’s Coalition and Mothers on the Frontline.

July 21, 2019 12-3 pm Interviewer Training Workshop, Coralville Library. Parents and primary caregivers of children with mental health challenges are trained to interview other caregivers in their communities for the Mothers on the Frontline Podcast and / or the School to Prison Pipeline Project.

June 7, 2019 10:30 am-5:30 pm Coralville Public Library, Meeting Rooms A & B. Summit for Children’s Mental Health Justice. Sponsored by NAMI Johnson County,  Mothers on the Frontline, United Action for Youth,  and University of Iowa Department of Social Justice.

logo: text reads: Story Center, Listen Deeply, Tell StoriesMay 8-10, 2019 The “Children’s Mental Health and School Stuggles” Storytelling workshop in Iowa City. Co-facilitated by Mothers on the Frontline, Story-Center, and The University of Iowa’s Division of Child and Community Health. Click here for flyer.

April 12-14, 2019 CLPP (Civil Liberties and Public Policy) Conference, Hampshire College. Mothers on the Frontline will lead a session called, “Talking About Mental Health Justice”.

April 10, 2019 7-9 pm, Iowa City Public Library, Meeting rooms A-C Screening of the film, “The Kids We Lose”, co-sponsored by the Iowa City Public Library, the Mental Health, Special Education and Disability Parent Teacher Organization of the Iowa City Community School District, and Mothers on the Frontline. The Kids We Lose is a 90-minute documentary film about the human side of being a child or student with behavioral challenges and the struggles faced by those who work with them. The Kids We Lose also exposes the often brutal, inhumane ways in which these kids are treated in schools, inpatient psychiatry units, residential facilities, and prisons. Learn more about the film at The film will be followed by discussion.

March 28, 2019 7 pm Webinar: MOTFL will present: “Getting a Conversation Started: Advocating for Change When No One Seems to be Listening.” A continuing education session for the Family Leadership Institute at the University of Iowa Division of Child and Community Health.

March 30, 2019, 9 am – 1 pm, Grant Wood Area Education Agency, 4401 6th St. SW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Corridor Autism Resource Expo. MOTFl will have a resource table at this event.

February 26, 2019 10 am – 12 pm, Iowa Memorial Union, Room 256. The University of Iowa’s Spring 2019 Theme Semester: “The American Dream”. Mothers on the Frontline will be on a panel with the Iowa Justice Action Network (IJAN) about mass incarceration and mental health issues among the incarcerated. MOTFL will speak about the school-to-prison pipeline and how mental health issues play into that continuum.

February 21-23, 2019 37th Annual Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders, Kansas City Tammy Nyden gave a keynote: “Stigma Runs Deep.” and break out session,”Why Stigma Runs Deep”: We have been conditioned to think of mental illness as a character flaw caused by bad parenting. This stigma is a deep-rooted source of shame for children, parents, and teachers. It fundamentally assumes that good choices involve a strong will overcoming interfering emotion. Neuroscience says otherwise. Trauma-informed care offers a promising alternative to the punitive paradigm if it can get beyond the part of the stigma it keeps – that mental illness is caused by bad parenting. This requires 1. Recognizing that neurological conditions have many causes (including brain injury & genetic conditions) and 2. Broadening Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) research to include institutional and community traumas (such as school trauma, medical trauma, and racial trauma). MOTFL also interviewed for the Podcast and tabled at this event.

logo blue and light blue text: Make Your Mark! Self-Advocacy ConferenceSeptember 27-28, 2018: Iowan’s with Disabilities in Action Make Your Mark Self-Advocacy Conference, Des Moines, IA. MOTFL will have a table at this event. Tammy Nyden is speaking on the panel, “Engaging in the Election Process.”

October 3, 2018 , 11:15 am – 1:00 pm. Noyce Building, room 1023., Grinnell College. Grinnell Prize Week Panel Discussion: Connecting Science and the Social Good. Tammy Nyden will speak about the importance of the humanities to inquiries regarding  social justice. She will discuss the Mothers on the Frontline story collecting methodology, which is based in feminist philosophy.  The MOTFL methodology is also inductive in nature and  grounded on the premise that important and often overlooked topics and potential research questions will arise when not held down by preconceived narratives that are necessarily part of traditional research methods. She will discuss how the resulting story archive can inform and complement more traditional qualitative and quantitative research, by revealing questions they have not been asking, but should.

logo: red & blue shield with white star. Text reads Justice Action NewtworkOctober 9, 2018 Iowa Justice Action Network “Justice: A New Narrative” Conference, Waterloo, IA. MOTFL will have a table at this event.

logo: two stick figures touching heart betweent them. Text: Please Pass the loveOctober 16, 2018: Please Pass the Love’s 6th Annual School Mental Health Conference: “Culturally Competent School Mental Health”, Des Moines, IA. MOTFL will have a table at this event.

October 26-27. 2018: Digital Stories for Social Justice Workshop: The School-to-Prison Pipeline, Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA. The workshop brings together leaders and aspiring leaders in advocacy and activism on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, all who have lived experience with this issue and provides them the training to be interviewers in their own communities. The workshop will also provide an opportunity to network with allies, share a healing atmosphere with people who ‘get it’, and learn from each other’s wisdom. Our time together will include sessions on the power of story work to heal individuals and communities, technical aspects of recording (equipment will be provided), how to use the archive to bring about positive social change, and self-care when engaging in this emotional social justice work. During the workshop, each participant will contribute to the archive by being interviewed and interviewing another participant. Mothers on the Frontline is co-facilitating this workshop with three Grinnell Professors under the auspices of the Grinnell College Innovation grant: Stephanie Jones, Tammy Nyden, and Kesho Scott.

logo with abstract image of African continent overlaid with image of a women, plant, wall. TExt reads: Black Women for Wellness Presents August 20th, 2018 Power ForwardMonday, August 20, 2018: Storytelling and Stewardship:  Mothering at the Intersections of Mental Health and School Policy The session will concentrate on the power of storywork for healing and advocating on behalf of our children. Focusing on the mental health of children and mothers, we will examine the intersections between social and emotional health/learning, and school/medical policies. We will discuss strategies for deciding what to share with whom, and how to tell your story in a way that leaves you and your family feeling whole and respected, while at the same time effectively advocating for your child’s medical and educational needs. This workshop is a session at the 2018 Black Women for Wellness Annual Reproductive Justice Conference: “Power Forward”, Los Angeles, CA.

logo: orange and blue, text reads: 2018 Together we can Conference, Saturday, May 5, Iowa State FairgroundsSaturday, May 5, 2018, 12:30 pm:  Storytelling for Healing Workshop As caregivers of children with special needs, we are always being asked questions about our child – from doctors, teachers, strangers, family, etc. The questions can often feel insensitive, hurtful, and leave us feeling fragmented. This constant barrage can make our children and us, as caregivers, feel invisible, because ultimately the questions are not about our wonderful children or our care-giving, but about diagnoses and behaviors – about ‘problems to be solved’. This session will focus on the power of storywork for healing in caregivers. We will discuss strategies for deciding what to share with whom, how to contextualize your story in a way that leaves you and your family feeling whole and respected, while at the same time being a more effective part of your child medical and educational team. This workshop is a break-out session at the ASK Resource Center 2018 Together We Can Conference at the Iowa State Fairgrounds  in Des Moines, Iowa. To register, click here. (Free for parents, guardians, family members and persons with disabilities. Childcare is available and requires a reservation with deposit. Child care slots fill up quickly, so make your reservation soon!

January, 16, 2018 11:30-1:30 pm: NAMI Greater Des Moines Community Conversation 2.0 Tammy Nyden will speak about the state of children’s mental health care in Iowa.

Logo, text reads: NFFVMH National Federation for Children's Mental HealthFriday, November 10, 2017, 10:15-11:45 am: Storytelling for Advocacy workshop This workshop will discuss the power of the personal story to advocate for positive policy change. We will describe how people can become involved in the new Mothers on the Frontline Podcast project,  in which participants share not only the experience of living with or raising children with mental illness, but other intersections salient to the story they wish to tell. The session includes an activity to help participants practice effective storytelling. This workshop is part of the 2017 National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health Conference, Orlando, Florida.

logo: Red laurel leaf with text: Grinnell CollegeTuesday, October 3, 2017, 7:30 pm: The Power of our Stories: Achieving Mental Health and Criminal Justice Transformation Through Women’s Advocacy Members of the Essie Justice Group and Mothers on the Frontline will discuss the power and perils of uplifting the experiences of women in advocacy work. Panelists will explore the significance of bringing women’s stories into stigma-laden public debates, through a focus on advocacy at the intersection of mental health and incarceration. Leaders of Essie Justice Group and Mothers on the Frontline will discuss their methodologies and commitment to promoting healing and agency while avoiding voyeurism and further trauma in their efforts to leverage women’s stories to advocate for decarceration and the mental well-being of ourselves, children, and loved ones. This Panel Discussion is part of Grinnell Prize Week at Grinnell College, Grinnell Iowa.

logo for Please Pass the Love. Heart with two stick figures touching it with text "Please pass the love"Saturday, September 9, 2017, 12:30 pm: Making our Stories Count: Advocating for Children’s Mental Health in Iowa  This session discusses the impact personal stories can make to change policy at the state level. It provides an overview of Iowa legislative initiatives currently underway concerning children’s mental health and discusses ways to get involved. This session is part of the Please Pass the Love 2017 Iowa Parents of Children with Behavioral Health Conference, Des Moines, Iowa.