Texas Board of Education Rethinks Ritalin
Editorial by Fred Baughman, M.D.
November 7, 2000

(AP Education board urges alternatives to Ritalin for behavior problems. Houston Chronicle, November 4, 2000)

At the hearing of the Texas State Board of Education, November 3, 2000, on Ritalin for behavior problems in school children, board member, Mary Helen Berlanga of Chorpus Christi said: "I do not think it's for us to decide which child should be on Ritalin or not. Quite frankly, that's where parents come in," she said. "We at the State Board of Education should not be trying to interfere with the rights of those parents." What Berlanga knows, but avoided saying, is that the teachers are in control of who gets observed, labeled, referred, and, at the end of the process -- drugged. Rarely does the parent have a hand in this. Frequently, what happens, in the end, is contrary to the wishes of the parent. The process is that coercive. Teachers set the process in motion, not parents, psychologists, psychiatrists or other physicians but the classroom teachers. I estimate that parents initiate the diagnosing, labeling and drugging in well below 5% of cases. Consider, nowadays the growing number of cases in which school authorities report families to Child Protective Services who resist the process. Consider the growing number in which courts, then, hold a parent or parents to be negligent for resisting diagnosis and treatment of what is a contrived, invented, fraudulent disease. Invariably, in divorce cases decided in family courts, the court finds for the parent advocating the diagnosing and drugging, threatening the doubting parent with loss of his or her share of custody. I base this conclusion on having testified in 20 to 25 such cases and having conferred with one parent or the other in 50 or 60 more.

At similar hearings, May, 3, 2000, in the Arkansas, House of Representative, we heard a state representative, one married to a school official, deny that Arkansas teachers, diagnose, or suggest treatment for schoolchildren. These are denials of exactly what is going on. Teachers are exhorted by all in medicine and mental health to learn to diagnose and to start diagnosing. Surgeon General, David Satcher has been involved in such exhorting, both at home and abroad. If you have any doubt, read the Report of the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs (1998); they to exhort teachers to diagnose and label. It is very clear that teachers have been dispatched on just such a mission. They begin behavioral/psychological/psychiatric observations of children from the moment the child enters their class and this is done without the parents knowledge, much less, prior informed consent. Teachers arrive at de facto diagnoses, again without prior informed consent and then -- whether or not they say they have diagnosed the child they begin to urge, and then, coerce the parent to get medical/psychological/psychiatric consultation for the condition they the teacher has in mind. The act of insisting on referral for health care services, based on a presumption a teacher's presumption that a medical problem and need exists, is in fact, the practice of medicine without a license. Moreover, schools now have financial incentives built into laws regarding special education to diagnose, label and refer ever greater numbers of children.

Let me return to the act of a teacher's referring a child for physician or other health provider consultation. Doing so, the teacher has made observations and has come to the conclusion that a health problem exists one needing medical evaluation whether or not the teacher has written down or expressly spoken of a specific condition or disease to anyone else on staff, or, to the parent. This is the practice of medicine without a license but it is not the practice of the profession of education. It is a perversion of the practice of education.

A majority of teachers mention ADHD explicitly and when they do they characterized it as do virtually all health professionals as being a disease, neurological, further violating the prior informed consent rights of the parents and of the patient who began school as a normal child.

Summing up 95-98% of all diagnoses originate with teachers practicing medicine without a license, violating in every such case the informed consent rights of the child and family. In the vast majority of cases, there is, in addition, coercion by school personnel. No! Board Member Mary Helen Berlanga, this is not between the child, the parents and their physician.

The parents have very little say in the matter and their rights are regularly trampled in the process, a process that has no place in education. Educators have allowed themselves, unwittingly, to become the biggest of pushers. In all of their history of swallowing one fad after another, this hardly a fad is an all time low.