Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch & Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition
Uncle Sam is lately wearing a white coat and placing American students on the psychiatrist’s couch. The number of federal education bills, tests, programs and other policies promoting indoctrination and assessment of affective attitudes, beliefs, “mindsets,” “non-cognitive skills” and other non-academic traits is rapidly and alarmingly proliferating. Here are the most recent and very concerning examples:
1) The Every Child Achieves Act (S 1177) – This is the 792 page Senate version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. Some of the many examples of federal expansion of mental health screening in the schools include:
Training teachers who are not mental health professionals to mentally screen student
Doing special education (IDEA)-style behavioral monitoring and intervention school-wide without delineation between observation, suggestion, and treatment nor clear methods of parental consent and privacy protection for behavioral information.
The federal government is promoting the concept that schools taking on the functions of families and physicians by paying for schools to provide mental health care
They are even putting mental health in physical education
2) The Student Success Act (HR 5) – The House version of the ESEA/NCLB reauthorization expands affective testing by omission instead of commission and also continues mental health programs for certain groups:
The rewrite of the section that discusses state standards, assessments and accountability leaves out the key protection that prohibits the federally mandated state tests that “evaluate or assess personal or family beliefs and attitudes.” This was one of the few good pieces of language in No Child Left Behind.
Title I funding includes funding for coordination of all sorts of health and social services, including mental health.
3) The Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA – S 227)
The Senate reauthorization bill for the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) that houses the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress also plans to allow “research on social emotional learning.” (See Section 132) The 2002 reauthorization of this bill gave us the scourge of the state longitudinal databases and was extremely problematic at the time.
4) Measuring Psychological Variables in the NAEP
Education Week reports that The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) intends to start collecting affective survey data on students who take the test in 2017:
“The nation’s premiere federal testing program is poised to provide a critical window into how students’ motivation, mindset, and grit can affect their learning… The background survey will include five core areas—grit, desire for learning, school climate, technology use, and socioeconomic status—of which the first two focus on a student’s noncognitive skills, and the third looks at noncognitive factors in the school. These core areas would be part of the background survey for all NAEP test-takers. In addition, questions about other noncognitive factors, such as self-efficacy and personal achievement goals, may be included…”
5) A summary of the grant proposals in the preschool version of Race to the Top, called the Early Learning Challenge, had various states boasting about how they would profile and monitor our babies:
“California will offer additional provider training in assessing social – emotional learning and ensure greater access to developmental and behavioral screenings.”
“The state’s (Minnesota) existing birth-to-five child development standards will be aligned with K-12 standards, which will be expanded to include non-academic developmental domains for children ages five to 12.”
6) A Federal Register notice of a grant program called the Middle Grades Longitudinal Study is described and seeks to add social emotional assessment:
Title of Collection: Middle Grades Longitudinal Study of 2016-2017 (MGLS:2017) Item Validation and Operational Field Tests.
Abstract: The Middle Grades Longitudinal Study of 2016-2017 (MGLS:2017) is the first study sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), to follow a nationally-representative sample of students as they enter and move through the middle grades (grades 6-8). The data collected through repeated measures of key constructs will provide a rich descriptive picture of the academic experiences and development of students during these critical years and allow researchers to examine associations between contextual factors and student outcomes. The study will focus on student achievement in mathematics and literacy along with measures of student socioemotional wellbeing and other outcomes.
The Student Privacy Protection Act, (SPPA) – S1341, is creating quite a stir. As expected and despite the long list of supporting organizations, the crowd at the Data Quality Campaign which is heavily funded by pro-Common Core groups and anti-privacy corporations that stand to profit from access to our children’s sensitive data, has attacked SPPA and lamented that Sen. Vitter’s “intent is to respond to parents’ concerns” (DQC meant this as a criticism!). In addition, the American Education Research Association, another group that makes its living on our children’s data, is opposed. AERA’s president said in an email, “This legislation, if it were to pass, would have a devastating impact on the quality of education research.”
Unexpectedly, however, a critique has arisen from a well-respected figure on the anti-Common Core side of the spectrum. This critique, though well intended and sincere, is based on a faulty factual and legal analysis. It is unfortunate that this opposition, coming as it does from someone who has done so much to advance the anti-Common Core and pro-privacy movement, may result in division among the parents and other citizens who have now been fighting these battles for years. SPPA is acknowledged by privacy experts to be by far the most protective legislation in existence. It is critical that our movement work with Sen. Vitter to perfect and advance this bill. In the face of the withering onslaught from our opponents, we cannot let a valuable advance be thwarted by friendly fire.
Therefore, after having been closely involved in the discussions that led to the drafting of SPPA, Education Liberty Watch President, Dr. Karen Effrem and American Principles in Action Senior Fellow, Jane Robbins have assembled this respectful disagreement with and response to this critique. (See this link also).
Although the critique mentions numerous concerns to which Effrem and Robbins respond, the major ones revolve around expansion instead of protection of students from psychological profiling and that changing the term “student record” to “student data” will increase instead of decrease access to private data by third parties. Here is the partial discussion of those two issues as a sample:
Karen R. Effrem, MD – President of Education Liberty Watch & Executive Director of the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition
Jane Robbins, JD – Senior Fellow, American Principles in Action
The following is a respectful disagreement with and response to a recent critical analysis of Senator David Vitter’s (R-LA) privacy bill, the Student Privacy Protection Act (SPPA), S. 1341. This bill is the culmination of many discussions and the attentive listening of Senator Vitter with constituents, parents, pro-privacy attorneys and physicians, and others who have spent years fighting the data collection associated with the Common Core standards and aligned assessments and the mental screening of children. Clarification of several misunderstandings about current law and policy will show that this legislation is a major step forward in improving student data privacy and protecting students’ freedom of conscience and freedom from psychological profiling.
SPPA will increase psychological screening and profiling: “[Vitter] defines in great detail every aspect of psychological testing, treatment, analysis, and evaluation—the affective domain—that requires permission, and then allows the special education teams to implement the entire affective domain list.”
One of the most exciting parts of SPPA, especially for analysts and activists like Dr. Effrem, who has been fighting mental screening and the over-diagnosis and drugging of children as young as infancy for more than a decade , is the prohibition on psychological testing and the strengthening of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment. After defining various terms, the bill does not merely require consent for mental screening and assessment or surveying of psychological attitudes with federal funds (a completely inappropriate federal activity), it fully prohibits psychological screening and profiling. The only exception is for special education evaluations, which is already current law. Significantly, the bill extends the prohibition of psychological screening and profiling to assessments, and thus would also ban the more horrific features of the Common Core assessments.
Here is the key language of SPPA:
‘‘(2) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no funds provided to the Department or Federal funds provided under any applicable program shall be spent to support any survey or academic assessment allowing any of the following types of data collection via assessments or any other means, including digitally (Emphasis added):
This language protects a long list of affectively related surveying and testing parameters, and is much more protective of students in this area than any other legislation, state or federal, introduced anywhere.
Written Testimony on SF 261 – Mandated School Mental Health Curricula
Karen R. Effrem, MD
President – Education Liberty Watch
Thank you, Senator Torres-Ray, for your concern for children and youth and for the mentally ill. Although the intentions are good, Education Liberty Watch has many concerns with SF 261, including dilution of academic curriculum content, loss of local control and cost for already strapped districts, our biggest ones are the subjectivity of mental health diagnosis, controversies in treatment, huge potential for political bias in diagnosis and treatment, and conflict of interest of the pharmaceutical industry, none of which are discussed in the national health education standards. We believe that this bill would create a biased and potentially dangerous curriculum for students. Here are a few examples:
- Even the top echelon of experts in psychiatry admit that diagnosis is very subjective:
Dr. Dilip Jeste, president of the American Psychiatric Association, in a statement on the completion of the new about to be published edition of the bible of psychiatric diagnosis, the Diagnositc and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), said last December: “At present, most psychiatric disorders lack validated diagnostic biomarkers, and although considerable advances are being made in the arena of neurobiology, psychiatric diagnoses are still mostly based on clinician assessment.” In plain English, that means that all psychiatric diagnosis is an educated guess.
Dr. Allen Frances, chief editor of the current edition of the DSM put it much more bluntly in a 2010 interview: “…there is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bull****. I mean, you just can’t define it.”
- The DSM-5 committee debated adding extreme racism and homophobia as a new diagnosis in the most recent version of the diagnostic manual set to come out this Spring (2013).
“Doctors who treat inmates at the California State Prison outside Sacramento concur: They have diagnosed some forms of racist hatred among inmates and administered antipsychotic drugs. ‘We treat racism and homophobia as delusional disorders,’ said Shama Chaiken, who later became a divisional chief psychologist for the California Department of Corrections, at a meeting of the American Psychiatric Association. ‘Treatment with antipsychotics does work to reduce these prejudices.’” (Vedatam, 12/10/05, Washington Post, emphasis added)
“As doctors increasingly weigh the effects of race and culture on mental illness, some are asking whether pathological bias ought to be an official psychiatric diagnosis. Advocates have circulated draft guidelines and have begun to conduct systematic studies. While the proposal is gaining traction, it is still in the early stages of being considered by the professionals who decide on new diagnoses.” (Vedatam, 12/10/05, Washington Post, emphasis added)
- The latest changes in the DSM are very controversial and according to experts like Dr. Frances and others will lead to even more over-diagnosis and more over-treatment with medications that have very limited efficacy and severe or fatal side effects
The decision to create a pediatric bipolar diagnosis in the current DSM-4 led to a 40 fold increase in that diagnosis in children, affecting African-American children most severely. This is probably because Medicaid is the largest purchaser of antipsychotic medications used to treat those labeled with this disorder.
In the new DSM, about to be published this year, temper tantrums are now to be labeled as Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder and the manifestations of the normal process of grief are now considered symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder.
- The side effects of medications used to treat mental illness are very significant and severe:
To varying degrees, all psychiatric drugs are associated with both increased suicidal thoughts and ideation as well as akathesia, an extreme inner sense of agitation, which can and has been associated with at least 64 incidents of violence at schools, including mass shootings like Columbine, Red Lake, and as it appears, Newtown. There are at least two reports that have not been discredited that Adam Lanza was on some type of medication. Here is a chart showing the gun related incident resulting in deaths in the US derived from www.ssristories.org:
Antipsychotics (Zyprexa, Seroquel, etc.) – 25 year shorter life span, brain shrinkage, severe neurological problems in 60% of children that take them, more severe metabolic problems than in adults that include diabetes, weight gain, male breast development, as well as heart attack and stroke in young people.
Antidepressants (Prozac, Paxil, etc.)– For young people under 24, these drugs carry the FDA’s black box warning, the most severe warning short of a ban because of suicidal thoughts and attempts. They also cause akathesia, even more so than the antidepressants.
ADHD Drugs (Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) – Associated with psychosis, hallucinations, sudden cardiac death and weight loss Continue reading »
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