The Rutherford Institute Takes on TeenScreen Case in Indiana

The Rutherford Institute Takes on TeenScreen Case in Indiana

Mon, 13 Jun 2005

Good News!

The high profile civil libertarian Rutherford Institute has taken up the case of Mike and Teresa Rhoades whose15-year old daughter was screened in her Indiana school for mental illness– without their permission. John Whitehead, the founder of the Institute who is a high profile constitutional lawyer believes that there are “clear constitutional and privacy violations involved.”

The aggressive tactics of TeenScreen and its blatant disregard for the rights of parents to make decisions for the minor children is being watched across the nation.

The Coles County (Illinois) Leader reports that the school by-passed parental rights, side-stepping federal laws that empower parents to give permission for their children for medical and psychological issues. Instead the school had the minor child sign an “assent” form” whose legitimacy and legal standing will, no doubt, be argued in court–since parents, not children have the responsibility of making decisions affecting their welfare.

Whitehead, who called mandatory screening an “Orwellian Nightmare” (See: http://www.ahrp.org/infomail/04/10/22.php) said he considers the opposition to be formidable foes,” because of the financial backing of pharmaceutical companies and the Bush administration’s support through the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.”

AHRP applauds John Whitehead and Annie Armen, Arizona talk radio hostess who arranged for the Rhoades to meet with Whitehead.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974

Coles County (Illinois) Leader
TeenScreen goes too far in avoiding parental rights
Monday, June 13, 2005
By Rhonda Robinson

Most kids come home from school with grades; Chelsea Rhoades came home with a diagnosis.

One evening early last December, Michael and Teresa Rhoades’ 15-year-old daughter asked them explain the meaning of obsessive-compulsive disorder(OCD) and social anxiety disorder…then proceeded to inform her parents that this was the diagnosis she had been given at school after she took a survey known as TeenScreen in her homeroom class.

Needless to say, the Rhoadeses were outraged and demanded to see the survey their daughter had taken.

TeenScreen is a controversial mental health and suicide-screening program recommended by President Bush’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFC) and was specifically promoted in an Illinois house resolution last year.

At issue is that the school did not obtain the Rhoades’ permission. Instead the school had the minor child sign, giving her permission to be screened using an “assent” form.

Across the nation people on both sides of the political spectrum are watching closely for news of states (like ours) that are attempting to implement the NFC recommendations, as it is becoming a dangerous intrusion of government into the privacy of family, and a direct assault on parental rights.

One such researcher read of the Rhoades’ plight and contacted them. Realizing that Mike and Teresa Rhoades’ concerns were not being heard he introduced them via email to Annie Armen, a live talk radio host based in Phoenix, Arizona and heard on World Talk Radio (www.anniearmenlive.org).

Annie’s mission in life is to empower children and families by giving them a voice. Not only did Annie give the Rhoades family a voice on her radio station, she became their champion, and personally took their story to The Rutherford Institute.

The Rutherford Institute is a civil liberties organization that provides free legal services to people when their human or constitutional rights are being threatened.

John Whitehead, a high profile constitutional lawyer, and founder of the institute said last week in a personal interview, he had been monitoring what was happening in Illinois, which lead him to take on the Indiana case.

Whitehead believes that there are clear constitutional and privacy violations involved.

While he states there is a lot of good case law to fight mental health screening, he considers the opposition to be formidable foes, because of the financial backing of pharmaceutical companies and the Bush administration’s support through the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health.

Mr. Whitehead went on to explain the complexity of the situation as many of the TeenScreen people are attempting to step around federal laws protecting parental rights by utilizing screening within the curriculum, where parental consent is not required.

While several more screening sites are in the works, TeenScreen made its debut last fall in Illinois, at the Peoria area Brimfield High School.

TeenScreen is being promoted by some, including the Illinois House of Representatives in a house resolution as “proven” effective, when it is clearly not.

According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) report there is “no evidence that screening for suicide risk reduces suicide attempts or mortality.”

Nonetheless, based on TeenScreen’s statistics in 2004, 5,862 children across the country have been screened without written parental consent.

As the June 30 deadline for CMH Plan calling for screening of all Illinois children, and pregnant mothers draws near; the issue of parental consent must be defined to the public and spelled out clearly within state law.

Few parents understand that there is a difference between passive consent and consent.

However, the schools and the ICMHP are well aware of it, and have fought to keep it out of the language of Illinois law, and the CMH Plan.

The CMH Plan clearly states that all of the recommendations put forth are in compliance with state laws; this is true. Passive consent is legal.

The Partnership claims the proposed screening is not mandatory.

Yet the Illinois Learning Standards now require developmental and emotional health, and the plan calls for screening as a part of regular examinations required for school entry, as a stated goal.

Like a thief in the night; this “strategic plan” will not only threaten parent’s parental rights with unprecedented state intrusion, but it will rob the truly mentally ill of scarce state resources and healthy children will be labeled with a diagnosis that could haunt them for a lifetime.

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