School board approves mental health screenings despite opposition

The Oshkosh school board unanimously approved funding voluntary mental health screenings for high school freshman despite out-of-state pressure to steer clear of the program.

The board voted 7-0 Wednesday to offer the free screenings through the TeenScreen program in effort to identify and help those at risk of committing suicide.

Individuals from as far away as Florida, California and New York had been blasting board members with emails urging them to vote no. They argued the screenings were a failed tool abandoned by its creators. They also said the tool was an attempt by social workers and psychiatrists to get more clients and money while risking introducing thoughts of suicide to otherwise healthy youths.

The opposition was instigated by Ken Kramer, of Clearwater, Fla., who is a Scientologist who share’s the church’s opposition to psychiatry. He runs a public records research Web site called psychsearch.net and is involved with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an organization founded by the Church of Scientology in 1969 to expose abuses in psychiatry.

Board members questioned local TeenScreen Program Manager Sarah Bassing-Sutton about the concerns. She said the arguments made by Kramer and others were based on false information or myth. Board members ultimately agreed with her.

“I have enough faith in the people who put this together and the people around this (school board) table that none of us would do anything knowingly to harm any of the 10,000 children in this district,” board member Barb Herzog said.

About Adam Rodewald

Adam Rodewald is the senior reporter for The Oshkosh Northwestern and a member of the Gannett Wisconsin Media Investigative Team. He has been a professional journalist since 2006. He specializes in open records, data analysis, and issues surrounding education, children and families.
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