Wednesday, July 13, 2005

From the frontlines of the war against MMHS

The following was reprinted with permission from Julie Quist of EdWatch regarding two sources (President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health and Resources Regarding Mental Health Screenings) posted by Susan Ryan on the NCSW Yahoo! list:

Dear Susan, Annette, and others,

I haven't contributed before, but I've been on the list for a few weeks now. Thank you for the good information.

I'm from Minnesota (EdWatch and EdAction) and we have been fighting hard against universal mental health screening for preschoolers here in our state in this legislative session. We just finished the education bill at 2:00 a.m. Monday morning, complete with a special session and a government shutdown since July 1st. The education bill still has to pass the House and Senate, but it will no doubt pass sometime tomorrow or Thursday. (Government is temporarily back in business.)

Mental health screening wasn't the hold-up for the legislation, but the delays have meant we've had to continue the fight from January 8th to now! We successfully kept out mental health screening! It was quite a major victory for us.

The legislation started out this way in January: "All children shall be screened at least once by age three." That would have included both mental health and state early learning curriculum standards which reflected things like gender identity, social activism, environmentalism, homosexuality, diversity, and vocations. Of course, it would have included not only non public and home school families for mental health screening, but it would also have included K-12.

From there, under pressure they cut the language back to "targeting" 3 year olds, but with no requirement to be screened until students entered public kindergarten. That let nonpublic school families off that hook for the time being. But the bill offered school districts extra money for every 3 year old they screened.

The final legislation was no mental health screening at all! We were able to cut way back on the rest of the screening, too, and on their plans to set up a total early learning system for all, including private providers. We called it the Nanny State. There's still way too much room for lots of mischief, but I have to say, we're in a much stronger position today than we were last January, and mental health screening was completely defeated! We were so determined not to have our state follow in the footsteps of Illinois. However, Minnesota is implementing social and emotional teaching already, and it's really tough to get a handle on it all.

That's why we're pushing a couple of things at the federal level. One is the Parental Consent Act (HR 181 -- 44 co-sponsors to date in the House) and the Child Medication Safety Act (HR 1790).
<http://edaction.org/2005/051205-mhs.htm>Parental Consent Act (HR 181) prohibits federal funds from being used "to establish or implement any universal or mandatory mental health screening program." States usually end up adopting whatever federal taxes will fund, so this would remove federal funding. That would help out the good people who were the guinea
pigs in Illinois, too.

Also, <http://edaction.org/2003/03Mar24.htm>an amendment was added to the 2003 federal special ed <http://edaction.org/2003/03Mar24.htm> (IDEA) bill. That applies only to special ed students. It gives special ed parents the final say in deciding whether children should be given Ritalin or other controlled substances. It bars states and schools from keeping students out of class in cases when parents disagree with a recommendation to medicate a child. That federal law <http://edaction.org/2005/070505-mhsa.htm>took effect July 1, 2005.

<http://edaction.org/2005/050205-HR1790a.htm>The Child Medication Safety Act of 2005, HR 1790) would extend that protection to all students. It would also extend protection against coercion of parents by schools to put children on all psycho-tropic drugs (like prozac and paxin), not limit the prohibition to just a few drugs (such as Ritalin), as stated in the special ed prohibition.

Since charter schools are public schools, all of this apples to them.
Julie Quist
EdWatch
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Thank you Julie, Susan, Annette and others for keeping up the good fight against MMHS. I hope this information gives others a clearer perspective and similar sense of urgency.

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