Using “gun violence” as its cover, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a cache of federal dollars that will be used for testing students for signs of mental health issues in K-12 schools.
Critics say personal information scooped up in the screenings will be logged into databases that will follow the child throughout his or her academic career and beyond.
Public schools, which have increasingly taken on aspects of psychiatric clinics in recent years, will get infused with more than $150 million in federal grants to further this agenda under the auspices of Obama’s 2013 executive action titled “Now is the Time to Do Something About Gun Violence.”
Obama took the action following the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, school shooting, putting Vice President Joe Biden in charge of a task force on “gun violence.”
These are the goals that came out of Biden’s task force:
• Strengthen the background check system for gun sales
• Require background checks for all gun sales
• Pass a new, stronger ban on assault weapons
• Limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds
• Finish the job of getting armor-piercing bullets off the streets
• Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime
• End the freeze on gun violence research
• Make our schools safer with new resource officers and counselors, better emergency response plans and more nurturing school climates
• Ensure quality coverage of mental health treatment, particularly for young people.
The last two measures are where the mental health screenings for students come into play.
On Sept. 22, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced $99 million in new federal grants to school districts for mental health services. The money will be used “to train new mental health providers, help teachers and others recognize mental health issues in youth and connect them to help and increase access to mental health services for young people.”
On Sept. 23, the U.S. Department of Education announced another $70 million in “School Climate Transformation grants.” More than half of the money “will be used to develop, enhance, or expand systems of support for implementing evidence-based, multi-tiered behavioral frameworks for improving behavioral outcomes and learning conditions.”
The goals of such measures include “connecting[ing] children, youths, and families to appropriate services and supports,” and increasing “measures of and the ability to respond to mental health issues among school-aged youth.”
Both HHS and DOE cited Obama’s “Now is the Time” declaration as the basis for the new programs.
“The administration is committed to increasing access to mental health services to protect the health of children and communities,” Burwell said.
Of the DOE’s $70 million package, $13 million is allocated to aiding school districts in creating “high-quality school emergency plans.” Another $14 million goes toward “Project Prevent grants” for violence-plagued schools to “be used for school-based counseling services, or referrals to community-based counseling services for assistance in coping with trauma or anxiety.”
Such designs hint at broader motives and agendas, reports Professor James F. Tracy in an article for Global Research:
“1) the federal government’s continued aggressive transformation of the healthcare system; and 2) psychiatry and drug manufacturers’ shared mission to persuade an increasing segment of the national and global population that it has one or more undiagnosed mental or emotional ‘disorders’ that require analysis and treatment.
Introducing psychiatric explanations and methodologies into school environments guarantees a growing customer base for the psychiatric profession and pharmaceutical industry. Alongside government’s increasing control of healthcare, the technocratic surveillance and management of everyday thought and behavior is likewise emerging as part of what is deceptively termed ‘wellness.’
In reality such efforts ensure an ever-expanding bureaucracy, handsomely line the pockets of a select few, and further normalize a culture of learned helplessness and control within an environment that already privileges conformity as a matter of routine.”
A very dangerous trend
Jane Robbins, senior fellow at the American Principles Project in Washington, D.C., said the federal government’s interest in testing students, not only for academic knowledge but for psychological and behavioral traits, has been a problem for many years.
“Never let a good crisis (a school shooting) go to waste, right?” Robbins told WND via email. “This appears to be part of the broader goal of focusing education less on academic knowledge and more on students’ feelings, mindsets, attitudes, etc. — so-called social and emotional learning (SEL).”
She said Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a “huge proponent of having schools and teachers focus on these kinds of things, which they are not trained for and which are only tangentially related to academic achievement.”
“It’s a very dangerous trend,” Robbins said.
The problem is even more concerning in light of recent attempts to create state databases of student information, which will eventually be linked together as part of the DOE’s plans for a nationwide database.
Rhode Island is linking DNA collection on newborns to its education database, meaning each child will be tracked from birth to college graduation and beyond.
Also concerning to privacy rights advocates is that the state is taking the DNA collections from babies without parental consent.
In most states, parents may request a screening exemption, but only for religious reasons. In Nebraska and West Virginia, parents may not refuse screening.
$50 million from feds for DNA grabs
So far, Rhode Island appears to be the only state connecting a child’s DNA to his state education record, Robbins said. But in return for federal funds, a number of states plan to link children’s health data with their student records, she noted.
In 2011, Rhode Island received a $50 million Race to the Top Early Learning grant from the U.S. departments of Education, and Health and Human Services.
In their grant application, the Rhode Island Department of Education said it would link the state’s newborn DNA database, KIDSNET, to the state’s K-12 school database.
Anita Hoge, an education consultant and expert on the student assessment industry, says the move to incorporate federally funded mental health screening into local schools is disconcerting.
“This is much worse than most people believe,” Hoge said in an email. “First of all, schools will apply for partial hospitalization licenses so they can bill Medicaid for wrap-around mental health services. Then outside people have access to the students. But, it is going to start at birth with the DNA collection too. So, there are lists of what is considered an ‘at risk’ child. And it will conform to the subjective observations of both teachers and professional psychologists and psychiatrists.”
Hoge said similar measures were proposed during the Clinton administration when the merits of “Hillarycare” – Clinton’s version of national healthcare – were being debated.
George W. Bush named his mental health screening initiative The Freedom Initiative, which WND reported on in 2004.
Marti Oakley, a radio host and author of the blog the “PPJ Gazette,” took up the issue of school mental-health screenings in July when she issued this scathing report:
The active attack on public education through the Common Core curriculum has now taken one giant step forward as Minnesota and other states passed aggressive mental health laws directed at our children. Several additional public schools in the state will now have [mental health] clinics on site as the programs become established; clinics that will be used to aggressively label the greatest number of children possible as having one or more mental disorders. Tied to these bills are massive government subsidies and other targeted funding.
In other words, our children will be traded for dollars regardless of the lifelong damage that will be the result from the assessment of fictional mental disorders; an assessment which will follow them for the rest of their lives whether real or just imagined by a mental health provider. Many will become dependent on the highly addictive psychotropic drugs known as neuroleptics and will suffer from a myriad of adverse side effects.
Minnesota was among the first states to jump headlong into the psychological training and testing of kids.
“Under five-year grant contracts with the department, 36 mental health organizations will provide school-linked mental health services to approximately 35,000 students in more than 800 schools across 257 school districts and 82 counties by 2018,” according to a release by the Minnesota Department of Human Services. “More than half of those students will receive mental health services for the first time.”
Oakley asks: “Why does that statement make me cringe? Maybe it’s the unfettered access to more than 35,000 students and the ensuing data mining that will also be relentlessly conducted and stored in permanent lifetime files for easy access by insurance companies, federal and state agencies and eventual employers.”