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Back to Sept. Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 200 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS SEPTEMBER 2002

Ritalin Roundup Continues
NEW YORK, NY - Bronx resident Michele Lawson is among many New York City parents fighting school-recommended drug intervention for their children. The prescription of Ritalin has become so scandalous in the Big Apple that the New York Department of Education just sent a letter to all district superintendents stating: "Recent press accounts have reported that some school district personnel have allegedly made the admission of some students to school contingent upon parental agreement to administer Ritalin or other psychotropic medications. Please be advised that school district personnel have no authority to impose such a requirement."

According to the New York Post (8-8-02), Lawson was told that her six-year-old first-grade son Dominick needed medication because he was "disorganized, forgetful and had a problem staying in his seat." By 2nd grade, Lawson was forced to pay for a psychiatrist, who contradicted the school's contention that the child had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

But school officials continued to insist that Dominick needed medication and referred Lawson to New York Psychiatric Hospital, where a doctor prescribed Ritalin after reading a school report and interviewing the boy for 45 minutes. While acknowledging that her son has "issues," Lawson rejected the medication.

At a February hearing, school officials accused Lawson of neglect and threatened her with loss of parental rights. That's when she pulled Dominick out of public school and is now paying to send him to a private school.

Even the well-known and the well-to-do face coercion in the nationwide push to medicate school children with powerful drugs for questionable disorders. Neil Bush, brother of President George W. Bush, told the New York Post (8-14-02) that he "endured his own Ritalin hell seven years ago when educators in a Houston private school diagnosed his son, Pierce, now 16, with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and pushed medication."

Bush spent years researching the issue and found that "the educators were wrong" about his son. "There is a systemic problem in this country, where schools are often forcing parents to turn to Ritalin," he said. "It's obvious to me that we have a crisis."

The Post pointed out that the forced drugging issue "isn't just an inner-city problem." Statistics show that children from the affluent suburbs "are more likely to be pressured by schools to medicate their kids than those in poor urban areas."

Lawsuit Filed in NY  
New Jersey attorney Alan Milstein was expected to file a lawsuit by the end of August against school officials in Millbrook, NY on behalf of 12-year-old Michael Mozer, whose Ritalin woes began in 1997 when he was in first grade. Michael's mother, Patricia Weathers, said the school claimed her son "couldn't learn" unless he was medicated.

Weathers told the New York Times last year (8-19-01) that by 4th grade, her son "was showing signs of severe anxiety," including chewing on paper and on his clothes. By then, he had been diagnosed by school officials as "bipolar" and was taking "a cocktail" of Dextrostat (a form of Ritalin) and the anti-depressant drug Paxil. Weathers said the drug combination caused Michael to become "psychotic" and "out of control."

The New York Post reported (8-7-02) that Weathers took her son off the drugs in December 1999 after he begged her to "make it stop - there's a person inside my head telling me to do bad things." School officials barred the child from attending school, then filed a complaint against Weathers with the New York Department of Children and Family Services. An investigation cleared her of wrongdoing. (She testified before a U.S. House Committee in 1999 about her son's ordeal.)

Michael now suffers from a heart murmur, which his mother believes is a result of the drugs.

Neil Bush thinks many parents fall for the ADD and ADHD diagnoses and subsequent drugging of their children because it explains why they aren't doing well in school. He now believes "it's the system that is failing to engage children in the classroom. My heart goes out to any parents who are being led to believe their kids have a disorder or are disabled."


 
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