Statement of Congressman Ron Paul
Statement on Introducing the Parental Consent Act
Madame Speaker, I rise to introduce the Parental Consent Act. This bill forbids federal funds from being used for any universal or mandatory mental-health screening of students without the express, written, voluntary, informed consent of their parents or legal guardians. This bill protects the fundamental right of parents to direct and control the upbringing and education of their children.
The New Freedom Commission on Mental Health has recommended that the federal and state governments work toward the implementation of a comprehensive system of mental-health screening for all Americans. The commission recommends that universal or mandatory mental-health screening first be implemented in public schools as a prelude to expanding it to the general public. However, neither the commission's report nor any related mental-health screening proposal requires parental consent before a child is subjected to mental-health screening. Federally-funded universal or mandatory mental-health screening in schools without parental consent could lead to labeling more children as "ADD" or "hyperactive" and thus force more children to take psychotropic drugs, such as Ritalin, against their parents' wishes.
Already, too many children are suffering from being prescribed psychotropic drugs for nothing more than children's typical rambunctious behavior. According to Medco Health Solutions, more than 2.2 million children are receiving more than one psychotropic drug at one time. In fact, according to Medico Trends, in 2003, total spending on psychiatric drugs for children exceeded spending on antibiotics or asthma medication.
Many children have suffered harmful side effects from using psychotropic drugs. Some of the possible side effects include mania, violence, dependence, and weight gain. Yet, parents are already being threatened with child abuse charges if they resist efforts to drug their children. Imagine how much easier it will be to drug children against their parents' wishes if a federally-funded mental-health screener makes the recommendation.
Universal or mandatory mental-health screening could also provide a justification for stigmatizing children from families that support traditional values. Even the authors of mental-health diagnosis manuals admit that mental-health diagnoses are subjective and based on social constructions. Therefore, it is all too easy for a psychiatrist to label a person's disagreement with the psychiatrist's political beliefs a mental disorder. For example, a federally-funded school violence prevention program lists "intolerance" as a mental problem that may lead to school violence. Because "intolerance" is often a code word for believing in traditional values, children who share their parents' values could be labeled as having mental problems and a risk of causing violence. If the mandatory mental-health screening program applies to adults, everyone who believes in traditional values could have his or her beliefs stigmatized as a sign of a mental disorder. Taxpayer dollars should not support programs that may label those who adhere to traditional values as having a "mental disorder."
Madame Speaker, universal or mandatory mental-health screening threatens to undermine parents' right to raise their children as the parents see fit. Forced mental-health screening could also endanger the health of children by leading to more children being improperly placed on psychotropic drugs, such as Ritalin, or stigmatized as "mentally ill" or a risk of causing violence because they adhere to traditional values. Congress has a responsibility to the nation's parents and children to stop this from happening. I, therefore, urge my colleagues to cosponsor the Parental Consent Act.