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News & Views - Aug 2000 Issue #72

Tom Bratter, President
The John Dewey Academy
(413) 528-9800 

Despite signing the Hippocratic Oath pledging to do “no harm,” physicians all too often violate this trust when they prescribe potent psychotropic medication (poison), especially Ritalin, to hundreds of thousands of children and adolescents whose only “crimes” are to be immature, irritating and disruptive. Consultants are advised to read Peter Breggin’s Talking Back To Ritalin to acquaint themselves with this scandal. 

Traditionally, signing an oath is a process used to alert professionals to their power to do irreparable damage. Such is the case when placement recommendations are based on the obsolete opinions of colleagues. Recently an educational consultant who professed little knowledge about special purpose schools, offered his placement suggestions, then aggressively counseled the family to reject The John Dewey Academy, thus exceeding his responsibility to respect the right of the family to ultimately decide which recommendation to accept. It is indefensible and unethical that this counselor neither disqualified himself nor made a referral to a more knowledgeable colleague. This consultant exacerbated the problem by not challenging what a perfunctory reading of DSM-IV would immediately show to be an incorrect diagnosis. Sadly, if the consultant had asked the appropriate questions or checked the DSM-IV, it would have been obvious that this student’s presenting problems were a mistrust of adults and a negative attitude; he was angry, alienated, and unconvinced, not schizoid. 

This student eventually enrolled at John Dewey Academy, and has demonstrated he has superior intelligence, and with a reasonable cumulative average, this is tangible prima facie evidence that attending college is a realistic goal. The “treatment” program that was recommended in my opinion has an inferior education program that would greatly compromise his future personal, educational, and professional options. This consultant only considered “treatment,” about which he knows nothing; hence his placement recommendations reflected this myopic view. 

How often are desperate families given toxic information based on “gossip,” laziness, and personal biases, rather than fact? As the professional organization for referring educational consultants, it is the Independent Educational Consultants Association’s (IECA) mandate to do everything they can to protect the public against these kinds of abuses. 

This is the age of litigation, from which no person nor organization is immune. Conceivably, IECA could also be challenged in court if any of its members act in a manner that is unprofessional or unethical without taking firm disciplinary action against that member’s reported misconduct. It is IECA’s mandate to investigate misconduct; and until I am satisfied they are taking effective action, this will be my forum. If this consultant does not refund a substantial portion of his fee, and the family requests me to testify should they sue for damages, I will honor their legitimate request. Since all John Dewey graduates attend colleges of quality and more than three-quarters earn a degree, a good attorney could pursue substantial punitive damages. Such a settlement would set a precedent for others. 

Hopefully, other schools and programs that feel an educational consultant has acted in an unprofessional manner will also protest their grievances, and this warning should prompt the IECA organization to ensure they enforce their guidelines, sanctioning offenders at the very least, by sending letters of reprimand. Upon request, such letters should be made available to the public. 

Rather than simply signing a pledge, IECA members should agree to work with children and adolescents whom they understand, and agree to be aggressive advocates. Providing incorrect information can ruin lives by minimizing opportunities, so there are tangible damages. 

Regarding the student and the situation that prompted this letter, after initially testing limits, he is working diligently so that attending a selective college is a realistic long-term goal, thus maximizing his future options. 

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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