A deadly coincidence: School shootings and drugged students
By Alan Caruba
I keep waiting for someone to notice the way the rash of school shootings the US has experienced has coincided with the massive program of drugging "over-active" students or those deemed to have an "attention deficit." Medicating students has replaced counseling.
On December 1, 1997, Michael Carneal, a troubled 14-year-old, killed three students and wounded five others at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky. In 1998, there were three events in which boys, one as young as 11, killed classmates and teachers. Most notorious is the April 20, 1999 Columbine High School massacre by two boys, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, who killed twelve students and a teacher, and wounded 23 others before committing suicide.
There were two incidents in 2000, one involving a 6-year-old who shot and killed another 6-year-old at Buell Elementary School in Mount Morris Township, Michigan, and on May 26, Nathaniel Brazill, 13, killed his English teacher on the last day of classes in Lake Worth, Florida. On March 5, 2001, Charles Williams, 15, killed two students and wounded 13 others at Santana High School in Santee, California. And, in 2003, two students were killed at Rocori High School in Cold Spring, Minnesota by a fellow student, age 15. He is awaiting trial.
This brings us to 16-year-old Jeff Weise who, on Monday, March 21, killed his grandfather and his longtime companion, and then went to the school on Red lake Indian Reservation where he killed nine people and wounded seven before, like Harris and Klebold, killing himself. Weise was on Prozac, a medication for depression. Harris and Klebold were both on various mind-altering medications. Not only did they not help them, but the question is whether they may have actually contributed to these acts of murder? How many of the other young killers, dating back to 1997, were also being medicated? And, while we're at it, how many young suicide victims were likewise being medicated?
Something is terribly wrong in this nation when we can experience a succession of seemingly senseless school killings and not begin to ask whether the national obsession with drugging an estimated six to seven million school children isn't a contributory factor?
"Why is 80 percent of the world's methylphenidate (Ritalin and Adderall) being fed to American children?" asked Dr. William B. Carey when he appeared before a House panel investigating the wide use of psychotropic drugs in 2003. "These drugs have the potential for serious harm and abuse," noted Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-DE). "They are listed on Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. "
Schools authorities, supported by members of the psychiatric community, have recommended that millions of children be put on psychotropic drugs since the invention of two new "syndromes." There have always been "over-active" children and many children said to be suffering from "attention deficit" may actually be quite bright, but totally bored by what passes for a curriculum these days. Or they may, like millions of children passing through the school system, be illiterate; thanks to the way reading is taught.
Too many of these "recommendations" have included the threat of having children removed from the parent's care.
So why is the Bush Administration, responsible for the No Child Left Behind Act that school systems are fleeing in droves, also pushing to have universal mental health screening undertaken in schools? While the 108th Congress took steps to protect parents from being coerced by schools to subject their children to some of the psychiatric medications, they exempted antidepressant medications (like Prozac) or those used to treat children labeled bipolar. Known side effects of these drugs include obesity, diabetes, and neurological problems.
Some of the neurological problems include suicidal thoughts and, one wonders, homicidal thoughts as well? That said, it is easy to pin the blame on the use of drugs, just as it is easier for teachers and administrators to recommend drugging students who exhibit disruptive behavior or what, to a lay person, appears to be an emotional disorder. When you have a classroom full of kids, the troubled ones frequently stick out, but there is often scarce time and little real training to provide help.
Where should that help come from? Parents! No one has greater responsibility and authority than parents for the welfare of their children. However, the result of compulsory education in America increasingly involves interposing the power of the school between students and parents. In fairness, many teachers will tell you their capacity to discipline a student has significantly diminished.
Lastly, in a society suffused with constant news and imagery of homicidal behavior, why should anyone be surprised that a child or adolescent would not see this as a viable alternative to whatever emotional torment he is experiencing? What is almost guaranteed, however, is that we shall read about more school killings in the years ahead.
Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center. © Alan Caruba, April 2005
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