Mental health screening of all children is the goal of legislation introduced into many state legislatures this year. Typical of these controversial bills is the Missouri bill that would require every Missouri school district, in collaboration with "the office of comprehensive child mental health," to develop "a policy of incorporating social and emotional development into the district's educational program."
The Missouri bill requires schools to "address teaching and assessing social and emotional skills and protocols for responding to children with social, emotional or mental health problems." The bill also requires the Missouri State Board of Education to set "social and emotional development standards."
One marvels at the arrogance of government officials who think they can set children's social and emotional standards. Where on the chart would they place a child crying because he fell and skinned his knee?
Cortland County, N.Y., has already announced a plan to screen annually every fifth-grader and ninth-grader for mental health problems. The purpose, according to the county director of youth services, is "to raise awareness that mental health issues are in essence no different than other physical issues, such as heart disease." Apparently, you are not "aware" if you think otherwise.
The screening process, which takes 15 minutes, involves getting the kids to answer a series of yes-or-no questions, on either computer or paper. It is claimed that parental permission will be necessary, but all children of any age in foster care will automatically be screened.
Mental health screening is based on the assumption that 10 percent of children suffer from a mental disorder severe enough to cause impairment, and that 5 percent of children have emotional or behavior difficulties that interfere with learning, friendships and family life.
Cortland County plans to refer the 10 percent to the county mental health clinic or other providers for further evaluation, and it is well-known that referrals often result in orders for drug therapy. The clinic will be rewarded with $50 of taxpayers' money for every child sent to the clinic.
Parents are starting to wake up to this invasion of their authority over the care and upbringing of their own children. A bill that would prohibit school personnel from making mental health recommendations or requirements for children, including the use of psychotropic medications, just passed out of a committee of the Utah Legislature.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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