Dangerously Flawed “TeenScreen” Mental Health Program Returning to Schools

As the push for more school-based mental health intervention increases after recent high profile school shootings, one particularly controversial and inaccurate mental health screening instrument, “TeenScreen”, is starting to make a comeback. Developed by Dr. David Schaffer and other psychiatrists at Columbia University, TeenScreen is a 14-question computerized survey that was heavily used in as many as 40 states in the early 2000s. However, the vague and subjective questions used by Teen Screen yielded an astronomical false-positive rate of 84 percent, as admitted by Dr. Schaffer: The CSS’s positive predictive value of 16% (determined by a weighted prevalence of DISC

Flawed Report Uses Pseudoscience to Promote “Social Emotional Learning”

The latest report of the National Commission on Social Emotional and Academic Learning continues to promote questionable brain science in the service of having government schools, corporations, or their foundations set norms for and assess the values, attitudes, beliefs, and emotions of students from cradle to career. Here are some of the many reasons this report is so debatable: Poor Science The report includes several key statements based on alleged brain science that should raise concern about its validity: According to a 2015 study published in the journal Science, only 39 out of 100 studies published in three leading psychology

FBI Warns of Grave Cyber Security Threat to Students from School Tech

Finally! Although the horse may be long out of the barn, the FBI should nevertheless be commended for issuing this warning about the dangers of education technology and cyber security threats for students and their families: The FBI is encouraging public awareness of cyber threat concerns related to K-12 students. The US school systems’ rapid growth of education technologies (EdTech) and widespread collection of student data could have privacy and safety implications if compromised or exploited. The warning gives a list of many types of data that can maliciously exploited, rightly saying that this is not all-inclusive: personally identifiable information

Medical Child Kidnapping: Could a Norwegian Scandal Soon Hit the U.S.?

The BBC recently did a profile piece discussing Norway’s child protection system, which is based on its strict enforcement of its United Nations-approved child development standards that include social emotional learning (SEL) standards and work via government home visits. The BBC, which is not exactly a conservative media outlet, summarized the Norwegian situation as follows: The UN rates Norway one of the best countries for a child to grow up in. And yet too many children, according to a large number of Norwegian experts, are taken into [government] care without good reason. The conviction of a top psychiatrist in the

New Report on Parkland School Shooting Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

A heavily redacted report was released in recent days reviewing the Broward County Public Schools’ (BCPS) handling of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter under federal and state special education law. Although the report does shed some light on the events which led to the killing of 17 people this past February, it raises many more questions than it answers. An Updated Timeline Before asking some of those important questions, however, here is some background and a brief timeline review. The pertinent federal law is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), under which the shooter was educated almost all

Students’ Privacy Under Serious Threat in Era of School Shootings

As the number of school shootings increase, social media and mental health data are becoming very hot commodities. The federal School Safety Commission talked about how data sharing can be improved to prevent school violence at both of its July 11th and July 26th meetings. The trend in both meetings was to see the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as creating a barrier to sharing information that could have prevented tragedies like the Parkland shooting. For example, as described in Education Week coverage of the July 26th meeting: Clarence Cox III, the president of the National Organization of

Screen and Medicate More Students? School Safety Commission Gets Wrong Message

If the White House School Safety Commission is to make wise and helpful recommendations to protect school children, it needs to have good information. Sadly, most of the witnesses chosen to discuss the mental health aspects of this complex problem at a commission meeting earlier this month only provided limited and potentially dangerous recommendations: namely, the increased mental screening of school children and the increased use of psychotropic drugs in children — despite their connection to school violence. Dr. Gabrielle Carlson from the State University of New York staunchly defended psychiatric medications, giving several cases where she thought they had been successful,

Texas School Safety “Action Plan” Contains More Problems than Solutions

After yet another tragic school shooting — this time in Santa Fe, Texas, resulting in the deaths of eight students and two teachers — Texas has followed the example of Florida and proposed a plan that vastly expands mental health screening and diagnosis in the state’s schools. The first element of the plan is to “provide mental health evaluations that identify students at risk of harming others and provide them with the help they need.” This is the Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage & Referral (TWITR) Project, one of the programs that I wrote about several weeks ago. This program sends