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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Should Texas Schools Conduct Psychiatric Assessments on Children?

By Carole Hornsby Haynes, Ph.D. March 6, 2019

Have Texas legislators have filed approximately 150 mental health bills, handing over control of your child's mental health to state and federal government under pressure from Governor Abbott whose high priority for this session is mental health.

Ignoring grassroots opposition, the Senate passed SB10 yesterday and is headed to the House. This legislation, authored by Republican Senator Jane Nelson and signed onto by the other 31 Senators, creates a mental health consortium that establishes a new government bureaucracy outside the core functions of the government.

Although Texans support limited government, SB10 jump starts massive growth of unelected bureaucracies looking for a problem to solve to justify their existence and the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars. The structure set up by SB10 creates an unavoidable conflict of interest among pharmaceutical companies, special interests, and universities.

Three amendments were added to the bill with senators vowing that the egregious bill is now “fixed.” That is a pipe dream.

Senator Bob Hall’s amendment states that data on a “person obtained under Section 113.0152 may not be used for research project funded under this section.”

Senator Bryan Hughes’s amendment states that written parental, legal guardian, or caretaker consent must be obtained prior to any mental health services being provided to a child under 18 years of age. Yet that is offset by the next clause which states the carve out does not apply to services provided by a school counselor.

Apparently the 32 senators do not understand what they have passed and plan to pass. These bills are so convoluted and entertwined with each other as well as being entangled with federal laws and funding that effective carving out of anything is totally impossible.

Still another mental health bill authored by Republican Senator Larry Taylor -- SB11 – was fast tracked with a filing on March 4 and public testimony on March 5! So much for giving a voice to the people.

Trying to report on nearly 150 mental health bills is a daunting task but here are two that really throw up red flags for me.

Federal government control over mental health

HB198 adds district mental health services, care, and education with the capability to compete for federal grants. These grants will give the federal government greater control over mental health programs, including collection and storage of highly personal information, accessible by the federal government and posted in a student’s permanent file. Will children behaving as normal children, who also throw temper tantrums, be viewed as potential school safety problems? Will they be referred for mental health testing and counseling?

HB204 seeks to add mental health to the curriculum which will also include student assessments. Under ESSA the primary purpose of public education is no longer academic learning, but rather social and emotional learning that changes traditional student values, beliefs, behavior, and attitude for a socialist America.

Students are being assessed through digital learning to determine if they are thinking these government approved thoughts, including support of “diversity.” The mental health and psychological assessments, without parental knowledge or approval, will be added to the student’s permanent file.

More data mining

The federal grants that schools will seek for mental health services require collecting massive amounts of highly personal student data with storage in federally mandated longitudinal databases. In addition to academic, medical, social/emotional, and psychological data are also included. No data is protected by HIPPA, due to the gutting of FERPA and the requirements of ESSA.  Because there is no medical privacy, an error in diagnosis will impact lives and careers as the stored data is made available to third parties including colleges, military, and prospective employers.

Loss of Fourth Amendment rights

The data collected under the federal grants will be shared across all government agencies under the recently passed FEPA which sets up a de facto national database of citizens – thanks to Republican lawmakers. In addition, the data is available for “research” by outside interests. This is without parental knowledge or approval. 

Loss of Second Amendment rights

Mental health issues have become the political vehicle for attacking gun ownership. It is inevitable that some students will be stripped of their Second Amendment rights.

Loss of First Amendment rights

Political abuse of psychiatric diagnosis is routinely used in socialist countries to stifle political dissent.

Government schools now mental health clinics

Public schools have become mental health clinics with psychologists, mental health clinicians, case managers, behavioral interventionists, social workers and others to analyze student behavior and provide treatment. The federal government is spending hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to set up mental health clinics and screenings in local government schools. Under Obama’s 2013 executive action titled “Now is the Time to Do Something About Gun Violence,” the government unleashed more than $150 million in federal grants to test students for signs of mental health issues in K-12 schools.

New government bureaucracy unnecessary

Several Texas medical schools already participate in a mental health consortium that meets quarterly. We have existing laws and programs that support children with special education conditions, including mental health conditions. There is no reason to create a new government bureaucracy.

Trojan horse

Governor Abbott’s mental health program is a Trojan horse that shreds our Constitutional rights including those of children, while exponentially expanding government control and spending that will necessitate higher taxes.

Governor Abbott and lawmakers from both parties need to be reminded that we the taxpayers fund public education to provide an academic foundation for children, not to serve as mental health centers.

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