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Friday, Apr 14, 2006
Teens to fight ban on gay-straight club
South Rowan students say they'll challenge school board decision
Two days after the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education voted to ban the Gay-Straight Alliance as a club at South Rowan High School, club members said they planned to challenge the decision, which they called illegal.

"We are definitely going to try to fight back and do something about this," said Brittany Sharp, a 16-year-old junior at South Rowan and co-founder of GSA, which she said promotes tolerance of diversity.   "They are breaking the law and banning us from having our club."

The school board voted 7-0 Monday to create a policy that would ban all "sexually oriented clubs, gay or straight or otherwise."

School system spokesperson Kathy Walters said the board could vote on adopting the policy at its April 24 work session or its May 8 board meeting, but a date hasn't been decided yet.

"Sex-oriented clubs have no place in our school system, gay or straight," board member Jim Shuping, who proposed the action, said Wednesday.   "They are disrespectful and disruptive to our educational process. ... We need to take a step back from this and take control of our schools."

Brittany said the club, which formed in January, urges its 20 or so members not to disclose their sexual orientation or hold discussions on sex.

"I think they're telling me that our existence in the school doesn't matter," Brittany said.

Alliance co-founder Jessica Propst, 16, a junior at South Rowan, said the school board and community had misinterpreted the group's purpose.

"Our club promotes tolerance.   That's what we're about," Jessica said.   "We're trying to get everyone to just tolerate each other and be friends and accept everyone as people."

Lacey Williams, program coordinator for the National Conference for Community and Justice in Charlotte, said she believed the school board violated the Equal Access Act of 1984.

Federal law states that a school cannot deny equal access to student activities because of the religious, political, philosophical or other content of the speech at such meetings, said Jennifer Rudinger, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina in Raleigh.

Williams said similar incidences have occurred in other states, including Utah and Kentucky.

"You can't ban a club because of the reaction it might cause," Williams said.   "If they're going to ban one extracurricular club ... then they're going to have to ban all extracurricular clubs."

But Shuping said he doesn't plan on banning any existing clubs unless they become disruptive.

"What we did is legal, and it will hold up in court," Shuping said.   "We put a stop to it, and that is legally within the rights of the school board to maintain order in our schools. ... It's always important to me to do what's right."

As recorded in full in the meeting minutes, the approved motion stated, "Mr. Shuping moved to adopt a board policy to ban all sexually oriented clubs, gay, straight or otherwise, and to address any student emotional issues concerning the above with our guidance counselors, and if the creation of the club would materially and substantially interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activities within the school."

Mike Clawson, president of the Salisbury/Rowan County chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), said the school board shouldn't make decisions based on members' personal beliefs.

"They can't base their decisions on what our kids need based on their personal beliefs.   You can't base your decisions on your own feelings and your own prejudices," Clawson said.   "Our board members are put there to provide a safe learning environment for all of the kids."

Brittany said she would continue to fight for equal rights and to get her club back.

"This is a battle, and it's me against them," she said.   "I have to fight to be who I am.   I have to fight for the right to be myself."

Weekly Column

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

by Wayne Besen
In May, 16-year old Zach told his fundamentalist Christian parents that he is gay.   Horrified by the news, they vowed to fix him by sending him to an "ex-gay" boot camp in Memphis to be reprogrammed.   Like a modern day message in a bottle, Zach used his Internet blog to send an SOS.   Miraculously, his desperate plea for help washed up on the shores of sanity and circulated in cyberspace at warp speed.

"I told my parents I was gay," he wrote.   "This didn't go over very well," and "They tell me that there is something psychologically wrong with me, and they 'raised me wrong.'   Today, my mother, father and I had a very long talk in my room, where they let me know I am to apply for a fundamentalist Christian program for gays."

The next day, Zach threw another bottle into the Cyber-sea.

"It's like boot camp.   If I do come out straight, I'll be so mentally unstable and depressed it won't matter."

By now, Zach's plight has received worldwide attention and the spotlight has shone brightly on the debatably abusive and coercive tactics used by Love in Action, the cult that runs the ex-gay boot camp for youth called "Refuge".

With all the focus on this young man, another pair of victims in this tragedy has largely gone unnoticed: Zach's parents.   They have alternately been portrayed as abusive or religious zealots.   Indeed, Zach's father, Joe Stark, unwisely appeared on Pat Robertson's 700 Club to defend his decision to enroll his son in Refuge.

"We felt very good about Zach coming here because" let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn't give him today," Stark told the toothy televangelist.   "Knowing that your son...statistics say that by the age of 30 he could either have AIDS or be dead."

These are the words of a father who clearly loves his child.   He is doing what any sane father would do, and that is using all available means to protect his son.   Stark believes he is doing what is necessary to keep Zach from a premature death and an unhappy life.

The problem is, all his assumptions are based on deliberate misinformation spread by quacks or charlatans who have a political or profit motive in deceiving the public.   Stark is a parental pawn in the culture wars and I believe he will one day come to greatly resent this unethical manipulation by the extreme right.

First, his statement that gay people die at 30 comes directly from the work of Paul Cameron, a disgraced researcher who was kicked out of the American Psychological Association for distorting the facts on homosexuality.   Second, it is clear from Zach's blog that Stark bought the right wing lie that Zach is gay because he wasn't raised properly.

This canard is a staple of conversion therapy and a mammoth burden weighted on the shoulders of guilt-ridden parents who did nothing wrong, but are assigned blame.   Parenting has no more to do with a child's sexual orientation than it does with determining height or handedness.   Mounting evidence points to sexual orientation resulting from biological factors.   Unfortunately, Zach's parents are being victimized by the right wing offering them outdated and disproved research from the 1950's and 60's.   I suspect, in time, they will also be outraged by the right's dubious use of "blame the parents" pseudo science.

Look, there is no way in the short run that this is going to end well for the Stark family.   They enrolled their son in a failed program where the co-founder, John Evans, dropped out after his friend Jack McIntyre, also in the program, committed suicide because he couldn't change.   I photographed Love in Action's poster boy, John Paulk, in a seedy gay bar.   The group's youngest graduate and spokesperson, Wade Richards, is now a gay activist.   Needless to say, the group has credibility problems, especially when one explores their bizarre techniques.

"I'm looking at that wall and suddenly I say its blue," Love In Action's director, John Smid told the alternative newspaper The Memphis Flyer, while pointing to a yellow wall.   "Someone else comes along and says, 'No, it's gold.'   But I want to believe that wall is blue.   Then God comes along and He says, You're right, John, [that yellow wall] is blue.'   That's the help I need.   God can help me make that [yellow] wall blue."

Don't get angry at or lose faith in the Stark family.   Like most parents, they will need time to sort through the pernicious myths and misinformation.   When the high priced miracles and magic fail, they will see that yellow walls don't become blue and gay people don't turn straight.   At that point, the Starks will have to choose between valuing their family or Pat Robertson's family values.   My bet is they will embrace Zach over Pat.

March 12 / 13, 2005
Why Not Jeb and W.'s Kids First?
Labeling Kids Mentally Ill for Profit
C iting recommendations by the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health (NFC), Bush wants to launch a nationwide mental illness screening program in government institutions, including the public school system, for all students from kindergarten up to the 12th grade.

The New Freedom Commission was established by an Executive Order Bush issued on April 29, 2002.  According to a July 22, 2003, press release, the Commission recommends transforming America's mental health care system.

Achieving this goal will require greater engagement and education of first line health care providers — primary care practitioners — and a greater focus on mental health care in institutions such as schools, child welfare programs, and the criminal and juvenile justice systems.  The goal is integrated care that can screen, identify, and respond to problems early, the Commission's press release stated.

According to the NFC, its recommendations are being already being promoted in Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Montana; Nebraska; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming.

The truth is, this is nothing but another Bush profiteering scheme to implement a drug treatment program for use in the public institutions that will generate high volume sales of the relatively new, but inadequately tested, high-priced psychiatric drugs.  If all goes as planned, the scheme will generate millions of new customers for the drug companies.

Original Scheme Hatched In Texas

The commission's final report identifies what it claims are several model programs as examples of how aspects of mental health care have been transformed in selected communities.

One program is the Texas Medication Algorithm Project (TMAP), a medication treatment program that screens people for mental illness and then prescribes highly profitably psychiatric drugs.

However, the plan came under intense scrutiny when it was implemented in the state of Pennsylvania.  A whistle-blower by the name of Allen Jones,* who was an employee of the Pennsylvania office of Inspector General, published a report that described how medical leaders in Pennsylvania who controlled the medication plan, received payments from the drug companies who were going to benefit from the plan.

Through the Texas scheme, drug companies were able to gain unlimited access to the Texas prison system, juvenile justice system, foster care program, and state mental health hospitals, to recruit new customers.

In Texas, the list of medications to be prescribed was established by what was termed, an expert consensus, and drugs recommended for first line treatment, included high-priced drugs such as Paxil, Zyprexa, Adderall, Zoloft, Risperdal, Seroqual, Depakote, Prozac, Wellbutron, Zyban, Remeron, Serzone, and Effexor.

After securing access to the public systems, the next step in the Texas scheme was to get lawmakers to pass legislation to increase Medicaid coverage to persons who ordinarily would not qualify, in order to provide funding by way of tax dollars to pay for the drugs prescribed to customers within theses systems.

The fact is, our children are already being overmedicated.  According to a May, 2003 report by the New York Times, "National sales of anti-psychotics reached $6.4 billion in 2002, making them the fourth-highest-selling class of drugs, behind cholesterol-lowering drugs, ulcer drugs and antidepressants.

The number of children on antidepressant medication increased by over 500% between 1999 and 2003.  Antidepressants and anti-psychotics now constitute two of the four top classes of drug sales.

For example, Zyprexa is manufactured by Eli Lilly and is one of the drugs on the list in Texas.  In 2002, according to the watchdog group, NDC Health, "more than 7.4 million prescriptions were written for Zyprexa."

In 2003, it became Eli Lilly's top seller with worldwide sales of over $4 billion.  According to the New York Times, 70% of the Zyprexa purchased in the US that year, was paid for by government programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

Eli Lilly has well-known ties to the Bush administration.  After he left the CIA in 1977, Bush Senior became a member of Lilly's board of directors.  When he left the company to become Vice President under Reagan in 1980, he forgot to mention that he owned stock in the company at the same time that he was lobbying for tax breaks for the company even though it manufactured drugs in Puerto Rico.  Bush Junior made Eli Lilly CEO, Sidney Taurel, a member of the Homeland Security Council.

During the 2000 presidential election year, Lilly gave over $1.5 million to political candidates and over 80% that $1.5 million went to Bush and other Republican candidates.

Many members of the New Freedom Commission also have ties to the pharmaceutical industry and have served on drug company advisory boards.

What's In Store For Us

The NFC appointed 15 subcommittees to review of the mental health service delivery system and appointed a Chair for each one.  Several other Commissioners served on each subcommittee, and chose experts to provide advice and support.  The experts prepared discussion papers that outlined key issues and presented policy options for consideration by the full subcommittee.  The subcommittee reported to the full Commission only in summary form, on which the full Commission reached a consensus on the policy options that would be included in its final report entitled, Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America.

A February 5, 2003, summary report by the Policy Options Subcommittee on Medicaid, began by stating, An effective and comprehensive mental health system must rely on many sources of financing.  Many States have made significant use of flexibility in the Medicaid program to support their systems of care.  This has resulted in Medicaid being the largest payer of public mental health services in the country.

The report outlined the following recommendations:
Enhance Service Delivery

1. Public financing should support evidenced-based practices that are necessary and effective for successful community living.

2. Medicaid financial incentives and opportunities for the most appropriate community-based care should be increased.

Enhance Service Planning and Coordination

1. Federal leadership should guide and facilitate improved planning among State agencies that fund and implement services for persons with mental illness.

2. The federal government should assure proper data collection and reporting to facilitate and support mental health planning and quality management at all levels of the public mental health system.
One February 5, 2003, report by a subcommittee titled, Promoting, Preserving and Restoring Children's Mental Heath, began in part, by saying, Mental health problems among children and adolescents constitute a public health crisis for our nation. ... The extent, severity, and far-reaching consequences of mental health problems in children and adolescents make it imperative that our nation adopt a comprehensive, systematic, public health approach to improving the mental health status of children, the report said.

The approach, the report advised, should focus on both strengthening services and supports for children with serious emotional disorders and their families, and on prevention and early intervention strategies for all children.

The subcommittee wanted the Federal and State governments to formulate a plan to (1) implement a cross-agency, comprehensive, public health approach for children's mental health at Federal and State levels; (2) strengthen children's mental health focus in State governments; and (3) establish a Federal interagency entity for children's mental health.

As for funding, the subcommittee said: Federal and state agencies and commercial insurers should realign funding policies related to children's mental health to support a comprehensive array of services and supports, including home and community based services and supports that are individualized, family focused, coordinated, and culturally competent.

The subcommittee specified that a plan should be developed for Medicaid to support home and community-based services and support and individualized care, and maximize strategies to provide coverage and mental health care to uninsured children.

In addition, the subcommittee wanted the government to provide technical assistance related to more efficient and effective implementation of early and periodic screening, diagnosis, and treatment (EPSDT).

Here's good one.  The subcommittee we should strengthen Federal and State requirements for family participation.  Federal and state governments should promote a broader concept of mental health services for children and adolescents with emotional disorders and their families, it advised.

Recognizing that children receive more services through schools than any other public system, the report recommended that federal, state, and local agencies should more fully recognize and address the mental health needs of youth in the education system, it advised.  Likewise, these agencies should work collaboratively with families and develop, evaluate, and disseminate effective approaches for providing mental health services and supports to youth in schools, it wrote.

The subcommittee recommended training teachers and school personnel to recognize signs of emotional problems in children and to make appropriate referrals for assessment and services.  Systematic screening procedures to identify ... problems and treatment needs should be implemented in specific settings in which youngsters are at high risk for emotional disorders or where there is known to be a high prevalence of these or co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders, according to the report.

And get this! Anyone involved in the juvenile justice system or welfare system is really in for trouble.  Screening should be implemented upon entry into, and periodically thereafter in, the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, as well as in other settings and populations with known high risk, such as the Medicaid population.  When mental health problems are identified, youth should be linked with appropriate services and supports, the report advised.

This gang of thugs is even coming up with ways to make money off infants shortly after they enter the world.  This particular report recommends screening for all children ages 0 to 5 for social and emotional development as part of primary health care visits.

Mega-Bucks For Shrinks

Dr Jane Orient, the Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has a few things to say about this latest profiteering scheme.  "Teams of experts are awaiting an infusion of cash, she says, They'll be ensconced in your child's school before you even know it.

Orient says an added bonus is that your little darlings will probably give them quite a bit of information about you also, and then you can receive therapy you didn't know you needed."

According to Orient, kids will be asked invasive personal questions like whether their parents raise their voice, or Ever spank them? Have politically incorrect attitudes? Use forbidden words? Own a gun? Smoke cigarettes, especially indoors? Read extremist literature? Refuse to recycle? Prepare for a knock at the door."

The answers to these questions could lead to a home visit with parents, and accusations of "poor parenting skills, inadequate housekeeping, harmful literature, or a baby who is crying. ...," Orient warns.

She lists the many tools at the disposal of what she calls "the mental health squad," including "Counseling sessions.  Drugs.  Group therapy.  Removing the child from the home."  Although removing a child from the home is listed as a last resort, the mere threat of it "can accomplish wonders," Orient noted.

According to the he University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Student Health Center, privacy rights are essentially being ignored.  The center is telling patients that if government agencies want to see their medical records, they get to review them without a patient's knowledge or consent.  "By law we cannot reveal when we have disclosed such information to the government," the center advised.

Screen Those In Dire Need First

If you want to see mental illness, just go knock on the door of the White House, or the Bushës home in Crawford, Texas.  I recommend that we start this mandatory screening program with the Bush family.

Lets find some treatment for their deep-seeded mental health problems.  For instance, what rotten things happened in the Bush home that drove the twins to start drinking excessively while under age.  And what emotional problems caused them to intentionally embarrass their father in a matter of months after he took office.

Then lets screen the President's nieces and nephews to see why Jeb's kids find it appropriate to forge prescriptions for drugs, and why his son would engage in underage sex in a car parked in a public shopping center lot.  Or why Jeb's wife would try to smuggle in goods from other countries without paying the fees.

Then lets move on to brother Neil and have him screened to find out what compelled him to have sex with strange women who showed up at his motel room door in foreign countries, which resulted in a case of incurable VD.  And let's find out what possessed him to have an affair with his mother's secretary while both parties were still very married.

Next, let's line up members of the Bush administration and find out what compulsions need eradicating.  Then let's continue on to the officials at the FDA and figure out what happened to their consciences, which allow them to promote medicating kids for profits.

Granted, the "New Freedom Commission" is a catchy title.  However, words can be very deceptive.  I fail to see how forcing people to undergo mental health testing can possibly represent freedom, or how drugging people for profit can hardly be viewed as a form of freedom.

I agree with an article I read on that said, these people have lost their minds in a mad attempt to generate obscene profits regardless of the cost to human life, individual privacy, and human rights.

Evelyn Pringle lives in Miamisburg Ohio. 

* To the millions of doctors, parents and patients who will be affected, Allen Jones says educate yourselves.  The Internet has many sites that will help you.  The Alliance for Human Research Protection, would be a good place to start.


For archive purposes, this article is being stored on website.
The purpose is to advance understandings of environmental, political,
human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues.