Rutherford Files Mental Health Screening Lawsuit_Indiana / Fierce Opposition to TeenScreen Mounts

Rutherford Files Mental Health Screening Lawsuit_Indiana / Fierce Opposition to TeenScreen Mounts – Pittsburgh

Mon, 19 Sep 2005

The Rutherford Institute has just filed a lawsuit in Indiana challenging a school for subjecting a teenager to a mental health screening test – TeenScreen–without her parents’ knowledge or consent. After completing the test (requiring a yes or no answer), the normal 15 year old child was informed that based on her responses – “she liked to clean and didn’t like to party very much" – she suffered from at least two mental health problems, obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder.

A copy of the lawsuit is available at: http://www.rutherford.org/PDF/2005.09.17.PDF

Is it any wonder that parents and communities have joined in opposition to this uninvited insidious intrusion into their children’s personal lives? Screening for mental health is a pharmaceutical industry financed scheme to increase the pool of children declared to have mental or emotional problems, for which they will, in short order, be prescribed psychotropic drugs.

The Pittsburg Post Gazette reports (below): “over the past two years, a cottage industry of fiery opposition has grown up around the proposal to expand mental health programs in the schools and has become a popular rallying cry for conservatives who see it as unwarranted government intervention in family life.”

“Opponents of school-based mental health programs point to parents who say their children have been misdiagnosed with problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and forced to take medication under pressure from school officials.”

One of the leaders in opposing mental health screening in school is Patricia Weathers of AbleChild, who said she was pressured into medicating her then first-grade son after a school psychologist diagnosed him with attention deficit disorder. “The medication eventually made him psychotic, but when she stopped giving it to him the school reported her to state children protective officials for child abuse.”

A lawsuit brought by Weathers against school officials is pending; her son, meanwhile, is now 15 and “doing fine,” she said.

“We have 1,000 stories like this,” Weathers said. “Our group is not saying that children don’t have attention or behavior problems. Some kids do. But why should we force parents to drug their children so they can attend school?”

The AHRP position:

Inasmuch as diagnosing mental problems is entirely subjective, and those who conduct the screening have much to gain from expanding the patients (“client”) pool;

Inasmuch as being labeled as having a mental condition is stigmatizing and a disqualifier for certain jobs and professions;

Inasmuch as mental health service providers are bankrolled by the pharmaceutical industry whose interest is to increase its market;

Inasmuch as the drugs prescribed for loosely diagnosed mental disorders have severe, long-lasting, adverse side effects–and little if any evidence that they provide a benefit greater than placebo;

Inasmuch as children’s neurological development may be adversely affected;

Inasmuch as the drugs lead to drug dependency (i.e., addiction);

Inasmuch as screening for mental illness has absolutely no scientific basis or value for those being screened;

Inasmuch as schools are not medical facilities–and medical mistakes have serious consequences;

Inasmuch as there is evidence of coercion and parental right have been breached;

Schools should be off limits for mental or physical screening initiatives that are mostly fishing expeditions–unless a national emergency has been declared following a national disaster.

TeenScreen is an undeclared experiment that must be stopped.

Of note, Michael Hogan, Ph.D., who calls the grass roots uprising a “curious coalition of people” who are “making a big noise,” is not a disinterested, objective party. Hogan was the chairman of the New Freedom Commission that recommended screening all 52 million American school children. Hogan is the director of the Ohio Mental Health Department, which was one of the first to adopt TMAP (Texas Medication Algorithm Project), and is one of its most aggressive promoters who has traveled across the country – all expenses picked up by drug manufacturers. Hogan also served on an “Advisory Committee" of Janssen Pharmacia, manufacturer of the antipsychotic Risperdal (risperidone) a TMAP recommended first line treatment.

TMAP is a pharmaceutical sponsored marketing scheme – masquerading as “evidence-based" prescription formulary for psychotropic drugs that eliminates the need for professional judgment – something akin to “psychiatry for dummies." The manufacturers of patented psychotropic drugs lack scientific evidence to show that the new, expensive drugs are superior to existing, cheaper drugs–or better than alternative, non-chemical interventions. To overcome this problem, drug manufacturers financed a “consensus panel" to formulate guidelines that encourage (require) state mental health professionals to prescribe the most expensive psychotropic drugs as first line treatment.

The drugs recommended by Hogan and TMAP are the SSRI antidepressants. These drugs cause dependency–as demonstrated by the severity of withdrawal symptoms in more than 25% of patients–and they increase the risk of suicide and suicidality (i.e., suicide attempts). The other TMAP recommended first line treatment are the new antipsychotics–such as Risperdal and Zyprexa. These drugs induce diabetes mellitus at an alarming rate, and they have been linked to cardiac arrest, blood clots, stroke, and generally increase morbidity and chronic disability. **

**See references for adverse effects of these drugs at: www.ahrp.org

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974

Fierce opposition arises to mental health screening in schools
Sunday, September 18, 2005
By Karen MacPherson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WASHINGTON — Back in 2003, a federal commission created by President Bush recommended improving and expanding mental health programs in schools to provide help as early as possible to students with learning problems or those who might turn violent or disruptive.

The commission highlighted one means of early diagnosis, the Columbia University “TeenScreen” program, that allows students — with parental permission — to get a mental health “check-up” via a computer-based questionnaire before graduating from high school.

The commission’s 86-page report included this suggestion among a long list of recommendations to improve the U.S. mental health system. The report attracted little attention outside mental health circles.

But over the past two years, a cottage industry of fiery opposition has grown up around the proposal to expand mental health programs in the schools and has become a popular rallying cry for conservatives who see it as unwarranted government intervention in family life.

Opponents of school-based mental health programs point to parents who say their children have been misdiagnosed with problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and forced to take medication under pressure from school officials.

To these parents, the commission suggestion to “improve and expand” school mental health programs is the first, inexorable step toward mandatory school mental health screening for all students, and mandatory medication for many, despite repeated assurances by commission members, school officials and congressional experts that this won’t happen.

Led by groups like Ablechild.org and EdAction, these parents want to prohibit schools from having anything to do with the mental health of their students, saying it is the job of parents to ensure their children’s well-being.

As a first step, the groups are pushing Congress to pass legislation, sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex., and supported by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to prohibit any federal funding for mental health screening of students without the written consent of their parents.

“If [this legislation] is passed, it will prevent wasteful and potentially devastating federal funding while safeguarding the informed consent rights of all parents in what is a most serious matter — their children’s health and safety,” said Patricia Weathers, president and co-founder of Ablechild.org.

The educators and medical professionals on the other side of the debate agree parental consent should be required for screenings. But they also think it’s worth studying the idea of promoting voluntary screenings to get help for children who need it as early as possible.

“There is this curious coalition of people who are concerned about stuff that we didn’t recommend, and are making a big noise about it,” said Michael Hogan, director of the Ohio Mental Health Department and chairman of what was then called the New Freedom Commission.

“The core thing that the commission was concerned about is the fact that a lot of these mental health problems are pretty clearly problems of childhood and adolescent onset…. Added to this is the fact that most children never get to see a mental health specialist.

“The fundamental logic of what the commission said is that we should take steps to facilitate access to care where children are.”

The debate over school screenings is just part of a larger discussion over the role schools should play in ensuring children’s mental heath. Many educators point to a clear connection between mental health and academic achievement.

“There are a whole slew of intra-personal variables that contribute to a kid’s ability to learn and are heavily related to their academic success,” said Stacy Skalski, public policy director for the National Association of School Psychologists.

“There are also inter-personal variables. Kids don’t come into the world knowing how to relate to others. They need to learn that.”

Bruce Hunter, a veteran policy official with the American Association of School Administrators, said it’s clear “the education business is tough enough without getting into the mental health business.

“But if a kid is going to beat the hell out of other kids regularly, and is disrupting the classroom, that’s a child that needs some mental health assistance. One of the things that our members have expressed is a rising concern about students’ mental health, and the ability to get them help when they have a problem,” Hunter said.

A complicating factor is that the debate over school mental health problems has become enmeshed in the vehement opposition of some people to medicating children for depression, hyperactivity and other problems. These opponents point to the nasty potential side effects of some commonly prescribed drugs, including suicide, and argue that they simply aren’t safe for children.

Hogan and others supporters of school mental health programs agree that more long-term testing should be done on antidepressants and other emotion-altering drugs prescribed for children and teens.

“We [commission members] recommended that the scientists and regulatory officials get on top of the safety issue,” Hogan said.

Weathers, of Ablechild.org, is among those who believe more attention should be paid to children’s nutrition and behavior management, instead of “being so quick to prescribe a drug.” Her group supports legislation, sponsored by Rep. John Kline, that would prohibit schools from requiring parents to have their children medicated to attend classes.

Kline’s bill would expand protections in the Individuals with Disabilities Act, which prohibited schools from requiring special education students to take certain medications, to all students. The bill also would cover more types of medication than in the disability law.

Weathers said she was pressured into medicating her then first-grade son after a school psychologist diagnosed him with attention deficit disorder. The medication eventually made him psychotic, but when she stopped giving it to him the school reported her to state children protective officials for child abuse, she said.

A lawsuit brought by Weathers against school officials is pending; her son, meanwhile, is now 15 and “doing fine,” she said.

“We have 1,000 stories like this,” Weathers said. “Our group is not saying that children don’t have attention or behavior problems. Some kids do. But why should we force parents to drug their children so they can attend school?”

(Karen MacPherson can be reached at 1-202-662-7075.)

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Rutherford Institute Attorneys Sue Indiana School for Conducting Mental Health Screening Exam on Teenager Without Parental Consent

For Immediate Release: September 19, 2005
Press Contact: Nisha N. Mohammed Ph: (434) 978-3888, ext. 604; Pager: 800-946-4646, Pin #: 1478257

South Bend, IN – Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana on behalf of an Indiana family whose 15-year-old daughter, Chelsea Rhoades, was subjected to a mental health screening examination at school without her parents’ knowledge or consent.

Institute attorneys charge that school officials violated Michael and Teresa Rhoades’ constitutional right, as parents, to control the care, custody and upbringing of their daughter when Chelsea was subjected to the mental health exam without their knowledge or consent. Mental health screening exams like TeenScreen have increasingly been adopted by schools in 43 states, reportedly as part of an effort to identify students with mental health problems or at-risk tendencies for suicide that cannot be seen outwardly. However, while federal and state law generally requires that parents grant written consent in order for their children to take mental health screening exams, an increasing number of schools have begun relying on “passive consent" forms in order to administer the exams. Passive consent requires parents to return a form only if they do not want their child to participate in the screening. A copy of the lawsuit is available here http://www.rutherford.org/PDF/2005.09.17.PDF .

“Parents need to understand that there are some immediate steps which can be taken to combat the increasing problem of government encroaching into the privacy of the family," stated John W. Whitehead, president and founder of The Rutherford Institute. “First, it’s critical to learn your rights as a parent. Second, contact your local school officials and demand that you be notified immediately if they are planning to conduct mental health screening on your children. Finally, follow the Rhoades’ example and fight back against this encroachment on parental rights."

According to the complaint, on December 7, 2004, Chelsea Rhoades, a student at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., was subjected to a mental health examination known as “TeenScreen" by personnel of the Madison Center for Children. The mental health exam consisted of questions seeking only a “yes" or “no" answer, with no opportunity to explain or offer an alternative response. Only students with an opt-out slip were excused from taking the exam. All other students were divided into groups of 10-15, herded into classrooms and placed in front of computers. After completing the examination and being escorted into a private hallway by an employee of Madison Center, Chelsea was informed that based on her responses that she liked to clean and didn’t like to party very much, she suffered from at least two mental health problems, obsessive compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder. Chelsea was also told that if her condition worsened, her mother should take her to the Madiso n Center for treatment. According to Chelsea, a majority of the students who were subjected to the TeenScreen exam were also told that they were suffering from some sort of mental or social “disorder." Chelsea’s parents were not informed about the mental health screening exam until after it had taken place, when Chelsea spoke to them about her so-called diagnosis. However, according to the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, as well as Indiana state law, schools are required to obtain “written parental consent" before engaging in such programs as mental health screening. In addition to violating federal and state law and Teresa and Michael Rhoades’ parental rights, Institute attorneys charge that school officials violated Chelsea’s constitutional right to be free from unnecessary intrusions by the state.

The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.

Want to read more? Visit The Rutherford Institute website!