|Back to October Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 177||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||OCTOBER 2000|
Judge Rules for Ritalin|
ALBANY, NY - When seven-year-old Kyle Carroll of Berne, New York, was diagnosed by a psychologist as having ADHD, a prescription for Ritalin was not far behind. The child soon exhibited two of the drug's common side effects, sleeplessness and appetite loss, and his parents advised school officials that they wanted to temporarily discontinue the medication. The result was a visit from Albany County Child Protective Services, a petition to appear in court, and ultimately, what amounted to an order from Family Court Judge Gerard E. Maney to resume using the Ritalin.
Kyle was covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), which requires that a child labeled ADHD have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) devised by the school to meet his needs. Drugs prescribed by a medical doctor may become part of the plan.
According to the New York Law Journal (8-17-00), the school district accused the Carrolls of "educational neglect," and Albany Family Court "law guardian" Pamela Joern supported the school's position. She stated that: "A medical doctor prescribed Ritalin based on the recommendations of [a] psychologist. The child took it for a period of time, his behavior improved and the parents unilaterally decided, because of their own beliefs, that they weren't going to give him Ritalin. His behavioral problems returned and interfered with his school performance."
Under what was described as "at least the theoretical threat of having their child removed from their custody," the Carrolls agreed to "an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACOD)." The compromise requires Kyle's parents to comply with the doctor's recommended treatment (Ritalin). Although the Carrolls may get a second opinion, they are not allowed "to ignore the problem."
Abuse of Judicial Authority
In an August 16 column, writer and scholar Thomas Sowell alluded to other similar abuses by the courts. He referred to a story in USA Today that claimed parents have been threatened with charges of child neglect or abuse and with having their children taken away by authorities if they fail to administer Ritalin. "There are lots of little tin gods in the schools who are ready to put this label [ADHD] on children who are bored and fretful at the uninteresting and unchallenging material presented to them," Sowell wrote.
Class Action Suit Filed
Although not a party to the suit, Dr. Peter R. Breggin, director of the International Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology (ICSPP), is its medical consultant. Dr. Breggin has long warned about the potential toxic effects of Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs on children. (See Education Reporter, April 2000.)
White House Concern
The underlying theme of the White House announcement was the need for "more research." Dr. Breggin counters: "What's needed is a moratorium on the psychiatric medicating of children under age six, and a reconsideration of the dangers for older children as well."