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Parental Consent : TeenScheme Sets The Record Wrong

By Evelyn Pringle  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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On July 6, 2005, TeenSceen's Web Site posted the following statement here

:

"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."

In its own defense, TeenScheme addressed several points. In this article, I will limit my remarks to their responses to whether they endorse Bush's plan to screen all school kids and whether they actually do seek parental consent before screening children.

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Here 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% of TeenScreen programs use active parental consent.

This 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 consent.

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The 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 Board of Education approve the survey as a part of the educational program.

"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."

"If 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 circumstance."

The 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."

The 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 ninth-graders will be screened as a matter of policy, it is considered part of the curriculum)."

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But 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?

"No. 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 said.

Boy, 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 ninth-grade student in record time.

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