105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116, Chaska, MN 55318
952-361-4931 www.edwatch.org - edwatch@lakes.com

September 9, 2006

Know Your Rights on Preschool Screening

Early Childhood Screening promotionals appear all over, in places such as community education catalogs, newspaper and radio ads and Early Childhood Family Education centers. They usually say something similar to this:
"In Minnesota, all children are required to complete Early Childhood Screening before entering school." [School District 112, Chaska]
"The state of Minnesota requires that all children be screened before entering kindergarten." [School District 508, St. Peter]
In fact, all children in Minnesota are not required to be screened before entering kindergarten. Preschool screening is voluntary. Should state and non-profit mental health pushers be subject to truth in advertising requirements? We think so.

This issue was part of a discussion in a March 9, 2006 Minnesota Senate Early Childhood Committee hearing. Sen. Sean Nienow, a member of the Committee, persuasively argued that, while preschool screening is technically voluntary and districts make required statements that parents have the right to refuse to participate, the message to parents is confusing and contradictory. Nienow stated repeatedly that parents seldom understand that it's voluntary. As an example, he distributed a sample Parent Consent form that had arrived in the mail to a parent's home that past week. It stated:
"The parent or guardian has the right to refuse participation for their child, in any component of the screening program, and still be eligible for any other component; however, Minnesota Law requires parents to have children screened before school entrance." [Emphasis in the original.]
Sen. Hottinger dismissed Sen. Nienow's concerns, stating that this was obviously an isolated case of a school district using the wrong form. The reality is that this information is being distributed all across the state.

Preschool screening announcements are also grossly misleading when they describe preschool screening as simply "for motor skills, concepts, and communications skills."  Or they may say, "Early Childhood Screening includes a look at the child's development, vision and hearing checks, height and weight measurements, immunization and health history review."

Unstated on those lists, but what all Minnesota preschool screening now includes, is "mental health screening" that is being done without statutory authority. (See "Mental Health Screening for Preschoolers" and excerpts from committee hearing on preschool screening.)  Children, beginning at three years old, are currently being assessed, through preschool screening, for state-government-defined mental health "outcomes."

At the Senate committee hearing referenced above, Dr. Karen Effrem, stated: "It's parents and the public at large who are being deliberately misinformed -- not being told that socio-emotional means mental health."

-- National Association for the Mentally Ill  (NAMI) (an organization which has received tax dollars from the federal mental health agency to help implement the New Freedom Commissions recommendations, including universal screening) stated at the hearing:
"The President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health recommended that quality screening occur in school... 21% of children have a diagnosable mental, emotional or behavioral disorder."
-- Sen. Betsy Wergin, member of the committee, responded:
"Just looking at that number -- 21% have a diagnosable disorder -- I think we are over-diagnosing and we are over-medicating our kids."
-- Willard F. Harley, Jr., Ph.D, Licensed Psychologist testified:
"Therapy is not benign. It can hurt people, especially misdiagnosed children. Only a small percentage of children have severe emotional problems that should be treated."
Dr. Karen Effrem also stated:
Government sponsored and controlled universal mental health screening, no matter how sweetly wrapped in the fig leaf of parental consent, should never, ever be implemented.  It is never, EVER, the proper role of government to set norms for, assess or intervene in the thoughts and emotions of free citizens, much less innocent, vulnerable, and still developing children. It is our thoughts and emotions that make each of us uniquely and individually human, and we use these thoughts and emotions to understand the world and maintain our inalienable right to liberty.
Not for non-public schooled children.
In addition to preschool screening being voluntary, all children who will attend non-public schools or who will be home schooled are exempt from the law (MS 121A.17, Subd. 1).

You may refuse.
You may refuse any part or all of preschool screening, including subjective socio-emotional (mental health) screening and the states nosy questions about your familys life (MS 121A.17, Subd. 3e).

Know your rights.
EdWatch now has beautiful business-sized cards called "Know Your Rights," with the Minnesota statutes that clarify your rights to refuse to participate in mental health screening written out for your easy reference.

Front of card
You may refuse any part or all of preschool screening,
including subjective socioemotional (mental health)
screening and the states nosy questions about your
familys life (MS 121A.17, Subd. 3e)

School districts cannot force you to submit your child to
mental health screening or psychiatric drugs by threatening
child abuse or neglect charges or removal from school
or by limiting school activities. (MS 121A.47, Subd. 14b)

Back of card
School districts must obtain written, informed consent
before any special education evaluations including those
involving mental health. The school districts must not
override a parents written refusal of these evaluations.
(MS 125A.091, Subd. 5a)

These cards are perfect to give to everyone you know. They're a handy size for purse or wallet.
Order copies on-line today. Click here.
Learn more
"Sounding the alarm on Infant Mental Health" -- link
" The Dangers of Universal Mental Health Screening" DVD, Karen R. Effrem, MD, pediatrician and EdWatch board member.

These issues will also be addressed at the
EdWatch Fall Conference. Register Today!

Friday, October 13, 2006  6:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 14, 2006   9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Embassy Suites Hotel Airport
Bloomington, Minnesota
Related topics:  
Karen R. Effrem, M.D.,
    View Bio
"Shrinks in the Nursery: The Merging of Mental Health and Preschool
Carol White,
View Bio
African Americans Acting Together (AACT)
Minority and Low-income Families as Psychiatric Guinea Pigs

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