Browsing articles in "Social Emotional Learning/Mental Health"
Jul 31, 2018

The National Pulse – Students’ Privacy Under Serious Threat in Era of School Shootings

This article discusses two federal School Safety Commission meetings dealing with school safety as well as efforts in Florida since the February shooting in Parkland, Florida and how these efforts can and will damage data privacy:

Only one of the three witnesses at the July 11th hearing thought that inappropriate data sharing would hinder students from seeking mental health help. No one discussed the many other dangers of having behavioral and mental health data, especially subjective and often inaccurate screening data collected by minimally trained school personnel reside in longitudinal databases for life. These will be further discussed in a moment.

Another disturbing and related set of developments are the multiple ways that data privacy is being violated in the newly enacted Florida school safety law. These include requiring students to admit any mental health diagnoses, accurate or not, on their beginning-of-year school forms and the new law’s requirement to develop a “centralized integrated data repository and data analytics resource.”

The diagnosis disclosure mandate is a major medical privacy violation, potentially opening students to unwarranted and unwelcome scrutiny by school personnel and law enforcement. Additionally, psychiatric researchers have found that the vast majority (93 percent, according to one study) of the mentally ill will not become violent and that there is no good way to predict which patients will become violent.

The centralized data repository and analytics resource is a euphemism for Big Brother-style monitoring of social media, along with behavioral and mental health data, to allegedly stop threats before they happen. In addition to the grave privacy doubts raised by experts, there is no evidence that this approach even works.

The Miami-Dade school district, neighbor to the Broward district where the Parkland shooting happened, received a $4.6 million grant in 2014 from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement this scheme on a district level. There is now no trace of it on the Miami School Police website. The program ran through the end of 2017 and is being studied by education research company WestEd. Likely possibilities are that the study is not completed yet, the program was a complete failure, or they ran out of money and this new law will be a new funding source. It was extensively described before being taken down

Jul 24, 2018

The National Pulse – Screen and Medicate More Students? School Safety Commission Gets Wrong Message

This article describes the concerns about inaccurate information presented by witnesses at the July 11th federal School Safety Commission regarding student mental screening and the relationship between psychiatric drug use and mass violence:

If the White House School Safety Commission is to make wise and helpful recommendations to protect school children, it needs to have good information. Sadly, most of the witnesses chosen to discuss the mental health aspects of this complex problem at a commission meeting earlier this month only provided limited and potentially dangerous recommendations: namely, the increased mental screening of school children and the increased use of psychotropic drugs in children — despite their connection to school violence.

Dr. Gabrielle Carlson from the State University of New York staunchly defended psychiatric medications, giving several cases where she thought they had been successful and vehemently denying any connection between the medications and school shootings. Her case discussions lacked any mention of the disturbing studies on what these medications may do to the brains of developing children and adolescents over the long-term. Additionally, her blanket denial of any connection between medications and school shootings is flat out wrong and ignores many case reviews, such as the well-researched book by Dr. Peter Breggin titled Medication Madness; media documentation collated at sites like and analyzed here; multiple journal articles; and the FDA labels for these drugs themselves.

Some of these research papers include:

An analysis of reports to the FDA of medication-related violence found that the “primary suspect drugs included varenicline (an aid to smoking cessation), 11 antidepressants, 6 sedative/hypnotics and 3 drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

The National Center for Health Research discussion of anti-depressants mentioned a 2015 Swedish study of their entire population ages 15 and older which reported that those taking antidepressants had twice the percentage of conviction for violent crimes. The risk of being convicted of a violent crime was the highest among the youngest age group aged 15-24.

An excellent white paper by Dr. Chuck Ruby, the executive director of the International Society for Ethical Psychiatry and Psychology also contained multiple studies…

…The FDA also documents this known association between antidepressants like Prozac and violent behavior. And there is evidence of new or worsening aggression or hostility associated with drugs to treat ADHD like Ritalin. The Parkland shooter was reported in several places to be on ADHD medication and undergoing treatment for depression that may have included antidepressants.

At least psychiatrist Dr. Mark Olfson — who is funded by both taxpayers and the pharmaceutical industry to research psychiatric medication use and also serves as the Scientific Director of Columbia University TeenScreen — was willing to admit that psychiatric drugs are overprescribed for children and teens. He promoted trying talk therapy first, given these drugs’ very serious side effects. For that discussion, he should be commended.

However it was his recommendation for more “voluntary mental health screening” that was quite disturbing. Multiple mental health experts who study mass violence incidents have stated that there is no good screening test that predicts which people struggling with mental illness will become violent…

Read the rest of of the article here.  Video interviews on both mental screening and the connection between psychiatric drugs and violence are available on this site.

Jul 24, 2018

Truth in American Education – Responding to The 74 Jumping on the Social-Emotional Learning Bandwagon

Senior fellow at the American Principles Project, Jane Robbins, and Dr. Effrem co-authored this rebuttal at Truth in American Education to more inaccurate cheerleading for social emotional learning (SEL) at education website, The 74. Here is an excerpt:

  • The 74 traces the concept of SEL back to the 1995 book Emotional Intelligence (which the news outlet apparently takes seriously). In fact, “emotional intelligence” has been debunkedas “a fraudulent concept, a fad, a convenient bandwagon, a corporate marketing scheme.” SEL first entered the federal education lexicon in 1994 as part of the Goals 2000 legislation signed by President Clinton. These goals were “voluntary” as long as states were willing to give up their share of federal Title I money for not implementing them. This is analogous to recession-racked states’ “voluntarily” adopting the Common Core standards to qualify for federal money. 
  • Interestingly, research in a paper cited by The 74, as well as multiple other SEL proponents and education stakeholders, posits that the supposedly “rigorous” and “academic” Common Core supports  SEL and vice versa. The fact that Common Core is proving to be a drag on academic achievement demonstrates that neither is very effective. Besides seeing both SEL and Common Core as anti-academic, parents and citizens also recognize both as invasive and indoctrinating — so touting the SEL-Common Core connection is unlikely to engender support for either one.  
  • The 74 cites only studies supportive of SEL. But even the aforementioned CASEL researcher admitted, “The results to date have been mixed…There’s also a general lack of long-term studies that might give researchers a clearer picture of the programs’ effectiveness.” In fact, The 74 ignores glaring defects of the first meta-analysis it links — that only 15% of the 200+ studies reviewed did a long-term follow-up, and only 16% actually checked academic outcomes. The 74 also neglects to mention a decidedly negative analysisof preschool SEL in six longitudinal education databases, which concluded, “Early math skills have the greatest predictive power, followed by reading and then attention skills. By contrast, measures of socioemotional behaviors…were generally insignificant predictors of later academic performance, even among children with relatively high levels of problem behavior.” Ironically, the preschool years have the most uniform, numerous, and longstanding SEL standards in all fifty states. Yet this study, combined with a new Brookings paper, affirms much previous research showing that SEL-laden Head Start and other government preschool programs don’t improve academic outcomes. Nor does “growth mindset” (an SEL favorite), as confirmed by another recent study. 

Read the full article here.

Jul 16, 2018

Video Interview – Dangers of School-based Mental Screening

Randy Osborne of Florida Government Watch did a second interview of Dr. Effrem regarding the dangers of school mental health screening which was also covered during the July 11th School Safety Commission meeting. None of the problems of inaccuracy, privacy invasion, consent, etc. were discussed by witness, Dr. Mark Olfson, the director of the failed TeenScreen program at Columbia University that shut down in 2012 without explanation after a school was sued for screening a teenager without parental consent. Dr. Effrem was an expert witness in that case.

The Co-director of TeenScreen, Dr. David Schaffer, admitted that TeenScreen has a false positive rate of 84%. Many of the other screening instruments have similarly and ridiculously poor accuracy rates. These screening instruments lead to rampant overprescribing of psychiatric medications that have dangerous and sometimes fatal side effects, including suicide and murderous rampages. It is extremely disturbing that there was no countervailing information presented at the commission meeting.