consent—TeenScheme sets the record wrong
By Evelyn Pringle
Online Journal Contributing Writer
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19, 2005—On July 6, TeenSceen's website posted the following
statement: "Recently, TeenScreen has seen growing amounts of
inaccurate, intentionally deceptive misinformation about
mental health screening and the TeenScreen Program
proliferating primarily through one or two individuals on the
Internet. Some of this inaccurate information has been posted
on other websites."
its own defense, TeenScheme addressed several points. In this
article, I will limit my remarks to its responses to whether
it endorses Bush's plan to screen all school kids and whether
it actually does seek parental consent before screening
is TeenScheme's response to the question: I have heard about
active vs. passive consent. What does this mean?
"Active consent requires parents to sign and return a
consent form if they want their child to participate in
screening. Passive consent, which is also referred to as
waiver-of-consent or opt-out consent, requires parents to
return a provided form only if they do not want their child to
participate in the screening. When using this type of consent,
letters must be mailed directly home to parents to ensure that
they reach the intended readers. Local TeenScreen programs
often adopt the consent procedures used by their local
sponsors or school districts for similar activities. Parental
consent must be obtained in order for youth to participate in
the TeenScreen Program. The Columbia University TeenScreen
Program recommends active consent as a best practice.
Currently 85 percent of TeenScreen programs use active
response almost sounds like TeenScheme is appropriately
concerned when it comes to protecting parental rights.
However, if it truly does promote active consent as the best
practice, a person has to wonder why the Fall 2003 Teenscreen
newsletter is devoted to explaining ways to outfox parents
when it comes to the laws that govern parental
newsletter explains how TeenScreen may be able to get around
the "Protection of Pupil Rights Act" (PPRA) that requires
written parental consent, by having the boards of education
approve the survey as a part of the educational
"PPRA is a federal law that protects the rights of
parents by making instructional materials available for their
inspection if the materials are to be used in connection with
a survey, analysis, or evaluation in which their child is
participating and which is funded by the U.S. Department of
Education. The law also requires written parental consent
before minors are required to take part in such a survey,
analysis, or evaluation.
your local mental health screening program is approved by the
Board of Education as part of the educational program, you are
not required to get active parental consent under PPRA.
Passive consent is sufficient in this
underlying inference in the newsletter is that the process of
obtaining any consent is a pain-in-the-butt nuisance, but
unfortunately, necessary for covering-your-own-butt under the
law. For instance it says: "It is best to recommend that, if
passive consent is obtained from parents, then active consent
should be sought from participants as a safeguard."
newsletter goes on to say that if schools would screen all
children as a matter of policy, the survey could be
administered without parental consent:
"Active parental consent must be obtained, however, if
a child is going to be removed from an instructional activity
for screening. However, if the screening will be given to all
students, as opposed to some, it becomes part of the
curriculum and no longer requires active parental consent
(i.e., if all 9th graders will be screened as a matter of
policy, it is considered part of the curriculum)."
of course we know that this will never happen because, on its
website, Teenscheme says it does not endorse screening all
kids in response to this question: Does the Columbia
University TeenScreen Program endorse mandated mental health
screening for all teens?
The Columbia University TeenScreen Program does not endorse or
support government mandated screening. The TeenScreen program
is offered only to communities that want to sponsor suicide
prevention and mental health check-up programs," it
finding out that TeenScheme did not support the plan to screen
all school kids sure made me feel better. Or it did until I
decided to go check out a few other TeenScheme newsletters and
read about what they pulled in Pennsylvania in order to screen
every 9th grade student in record time.
Spring 2004 newsletter states: "By implementing the screening
process through the Student Assistance Program (SAP) already
in place within the district’s schools, the Erie TeenScreen
Program was able to quickly conduct close to 1,000 screenings
using the computerized Diagnostic Predictive Scales (DPS)
"After completing the pilot," the newsletter said,
"the Columbia University TeenScreen staff and the Erie School
District immediately designed a proposal to administer the
assessment to every 9th grade student in the
goal was to screen all four high schools in the district in 12
weeks,” Christiansen notes. “This meant screening an average
of 100 to 250 students per week.”
According to the newsletter, "The Erie TeenScreen
program accomplished its goal. The team screened almost 1,000
students by the end of the 12-week time period."
it gets better. Teenscheme really hit pay dirt in
Pennsylvania. According to the newsletter, in December 2003,
representatives of the TeenScreen Program provided the sole
testimony before Pennsylvania legislative committees in favor
of a resolution that states that “every child should be
screened for mental illness once in their youth in order to
identify mental illness and prevent suicide among youth.” The
directing people on what to say while pushing the TeenScheme
agenda to lawmakers, under talking points, the newsletter told
its promoters to specifically tell them: "We need to ensure
that every American teen receives a mental health check-up
once in their youth."
here's how the newsletter says TeenScheme got around that
pesky little legal matter of obtaining parental consent before
screening kids in Pennsylvania:
"Erie was able to use waiver of consent with 1,200
parents of 9th graders by sending the letter on the
superintendent’s stationery, providing one centralized number
for parents’ concerns, keeping a copy of the survey available
for review, and making the principal’s office aware of the
significance of returned consent forms," the newsletter
Below is TeenScreen's answer to the question: "Are
individual screening results shared with Columbia
"Individual screening results are not shared with
TeenScreen staff at Columbia University. Only aggregate data
(e.g., total number screened at the site) and qualitative
information (e.g., feedback on how the program is working) are
shared with Columbia. The aggregate data and information we
collect from local TeenScreen sites are used solely for
program evaluation and quality assurance purposes."
not buy that line for one second. It claims to need numbers
for "program evaluation." I say it needs the numbers for
legalized drug dealing.
truth is, the results from the surveys will be fed to the
pharmaceutical industry and sales representatives will be
dispatched at record speed to specific areas where doctors
will be writing out the most prescriptions. There will be a
well-beaten path leading to each area of the country
Student names are not needed for this marketing
scheme, all that is required for success are the total number
of kids labeled mentally ill and the specific areas where they
live and thousands of new customers will sprout up all across
the county. It's a brilliant scheme.
who are we to believe? TeenScheme swears it always obtains
parental consent and that it does not provide students with a
diagnose of a mental illness.
However, a family in Indiana disputes both of those
assertions. Michael and Teresa Rhoades claim that the
TeenScheme survey was administered to their daughter in a
public school without their consent.
also claim that, in December 2004, their daughter came home
one day and informed them that she had been diagnosed with an
obsessive compulsive disorder and a social anxiety disorder,
after she was screened at school.
things go as planned with this scheme, parents are supposed to
head to the corner drugstore to buy pills each time a new
student-customer is recruited. However, things did not go
according to plans with the Rhoades family.
Michael and Teresa Rhoads were outraged, and instead
of heading to the drug store, they filed the nation's first
notice of intent to sue after learning that their daughter had
been tested, diagnosed, and labeled mentally ill by a public
school without their consent.
notice that is sure to be the first of many such lawsuits that
will be filed as TeenScheme fans out across the country,
causing local school taxes to rise as legal fees
afraid that now that I have seen firsthand what lengths
TeenScheme will go to in order to outfox parents and label
kids mentally ill for profit, I shall have to decline any
invitation for jury duty on the case because I have already
decided that the young Ms Rhoades is, without a shadow of a
doubt, the injured party in this action.
Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for Independent Media
TV and an investigative journalist focused on exposing