Rutherford Institute Attorneys Sue Indiana School for Conducting Mental
Health Screening Exam on Teenager Without Parental Consent
For Immediate Release: September 19, 2005 Press Contact: Nisha N.
Mohammed Ph: (434) 978-3888, ext. 604; Pager: 800-946-4646, Pin #:
1478257; E-mail: Nisha@Rutherford.org
South Bend, IN-Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a
lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana on
behalf of an Indiana family whose 15-year-old daughter, Chelsea
Rhoades, was subjected to a mental health screening examination at
school without her parents' knowledge or consent. Institute attorneys
charge that school officials violated Michael and Teresa Rhoades'
constitutional right, as parents, to control the care, custody and
upbringing of their daughter when Chelsea was subjected to the mental
health exam without their knowledge or consent. Mental health screening
exams like TeenScreen have increasingly been adopted by schools in 43
states, reportedly as part of an effort to identify students with
mental health problems or at-risk tendencies for suicide that cannot be
seen outwardly. However, while federal and state law generally requires
that parents grant written consent in order for their children to take
mental health screenin g exams, an increasing number of schools have
begun relying on "passive consent" forms in order to administer the
exams. Passive consent requires parents to return a form only if they
do not want their child to participate in the screening. A copy of the
lawsuit is available here.
"Parents need to understand that there are some immediate steps which
can be taken to combat the increasing problem of government encroaching
into the privacy of the family," stated John W. Whitehead, president
and founder of The Rutherford Institute. "First, it's critical to
learn your rights as a parent. Second, contact your local school
officials and demand that you be notified immediately if they are
planning to conduct mental health screening on your children. Finally,
follow the Rhoades' example and fight back against this encroachment
on parental rights."
According to the complaint, on December 7, 2004, Chelsea Rhoades, a
student at Penn High School in Mishawaka, Ind., was subjected to a
mental health examination known as "TeenScreen" by personnel of the
Madison Center for Children. The mental health exam consisted of
questions seeking only a "yes" or "no" answer, with no
opportunity to explain or offer an alternative response. Only students
with an opt-out slip were excused from taking the exam. All other
students were divided into groups of 10-15, herded into classrooms and
placed in front of computers. After completing the examination and
being escorted into a private hallway by an employee of Madison Center,
Chelsea was informed that based on her responses that she liked to
clean and didn't like to party very much, she suffered from at least
two mental health problems, obsessive compulsive disorder and social
anxiety disorder. Chelsea was also told that if her condition worsened,
her mother should take her to the Madiso n Center for treatment.
According to Chelsea, a majority of the students who were subjected to
the TeenScreen exam were also told that they were suffering from some
sort of mental or social "disorder." Chelsea's parents were not
informed about the mental health screening exam until after it had
taken place, when Chelsea spoke to them about her so-called diagnosis.
However, according to the federal Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment,
as well as Indiana state law, schools are required to obtain "written
parental consent" before engaging in such programs as mental health
screening. In addition to violating federal and state law and Teresa
and Michael Rhoades' parental rights, Institute attorneys charge that
school officials violated Chelsea's constitutional right to be free
from unnecessary intrusions by the state.
The Rutherford Institute is an international, nonprofit civil liberties
organization committed to defending constitutional and human rights.
Want to read more? Visit The Rutherford Institute website!
The Rutherford Institute 1440 Sachem Place Charlottesville, VA 22901
Phone: 434-978-3888/ FAX: 434- 978-1789/
Under the regulations of the United States Internal Revenue Service,
The Rutherford Institute is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt
nonprofit organization. Donations to support The Rutherford
Institute's legal and educational work help to safeguard the
constitutional rights and religious freedoms of all Americans.
Donations are tax-deductible. In compliance with general industry
standards of a nonprofit organization, the Institute is audited
annually by an independent accounting firm.
Founded in 1982 by constitutional attorney and author John W.
Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute is a civil liberties organization
that provides free legal services to people whose constitutional and
human rights have been threatened or violated.
How do I discontinue my membership/subscription to this e-mail list? Do
not respond to this e-mail for any reason. To discontinue your
membership automatically, please follow the link below. If you
experience any technical problems and/or do not receive confirmation
that your request has been completed online, please postal mail, phone
or fax your request using the contact information listed above. Your
request will be processed within 10 days of the receipt of your