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Methuen Parents Should Opt OUT of Mental Health Surveys

By: DJ Deeb – January, 2017

Although Methuen Public Schools are doing many terrific and important things, this month I have to offer constructive criticism on a program known as the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. In my view, this is a scam and constitutes just another wasteful liberal scheme to engage in the social engineering of our children.

What is PBIS? We read, “Positive Behavior Support (PBS) refers to “an approach to behavior support that includes an ongoing process of research-based assessment, intervention, and data-based decision making focused on building social and other functional competencies, creating supportive contexts, and preventing the occurrence of problem behaviors.” (Source: http://www.pyramidmodel.org/resource/positive-behavioral-interventions-supports-pbis-positive-behavior-support-pyramid-model/).

It all began with a grant from the Federal Department of Education (an agency that President-Elect Trump has promised to abolish and I am hoping Congress does eliminate) to the states to develop behavioral support strategies. San Jose Public Schools, an early adopter, states,“In the past, school-wide discipline has focused mainly on reacting to specific student misbehavior by implementing punishment-based strategies including reprimands, loss of privileges, office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions. Research has shown that the implementation of punishment, especially when it is used inconsistently and in the absence of other positive strategies, is ineffective. Introducing, modeling, and reinforcing positive social behavior is an important step of a student’s educational experience. Teaching behavioral expectations and rewarding students for following them is a much more positive approach than waiting for misbehavior to occur before responding” (Source: http://www.sjusd.org/student-services/pbis/what-is-pbis/).

Does this sound like feel-good, do-good nonsense to you? It certainly does to me. We further read, “Data-based decision-making aligns curricular instruction and behavioral supports to student and staff needs. Schools applying PBIS begin by establishing clear expectations for behavior that are taught, modeled, and reinforced across all settings and by all staff.” So, does this mean that if teachers do not want students to drink coffee in class they should model that behavior? Should we ask business executives, including managers at Raytheon, how they feel about this?

The main indicator of PBIS success is the number of out-of-classroom discipline referrals. This is absolutely ridiculous. Many teachers know that they’re being partially evaluated on the number of students that they send to the office for behavioral breaches, so they simply just refuse to ever send anyone to the office, even when it is justified. Of course, this skews the data in a way that makes it nearly impossible to reach meaningful conclusions regarding the success of PBIS.

To make matters worse, PBIS encourages the use of mental health surveys to be completed by elementary and secondary students at school. According to MHS Guidance Director John Crocker, the information gathered on these surveys “is confidential” and “it is used to understand students while they are here.” How long before the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) begins requiring that this data be collected and stored in a state database as they already do with a lot of other student information? The safe thing here is to refuse to participate.

I do want to commend Mr. Crocker, the Guidance Department, and the Methuen Public Schools Administration for their transparency in making all of the information available to parents and community members online. With all due respect to my Methuen School Committee colleague Bob Vogler, who claims that 99% of parents like the “mental health” survey, I wonder how many of you have actually had the time to read and review it. According to the Methuen Public Schools website, “This survey is being administered to all the students in Methuen High School to collect information about your feelings, perceptions, and behavior regarding a few things that make a difference in the way you learn and perform in school. Please take a few minutes to answer each question truthfully. There are no right or wrong answers. Everything you say is confidential and will not be shared with your name. Your responses will help Methuen Public Schools to create new programs and/or revise existing ones”

Why then are student names and state identification numbers contained on the forms? Methuen parents should visit http://www.methuen.k12.ma.us/ and follow the links to the Guidance Department to download the form to remove their children from this “mental health” screening. Below is just a sample of the questions your children will be asked after being asked to write their names and state identification number. Children are asked to respond with “Never,” “Sometimes,” “Often,” or “Always”:

…I get bothered by bad or silly thoughts or pictures in my mind…
… I worry that something awful will happen to someone in my family…
…I feel scared if I have to sleep on my own…
…I worry about things…
…I think about death…
…I would feel scared if I had to stay away from home overnight…

Here are some additional questions that students are asked: Below is just a sample of the questions your children will be asked. Children are asked to respond with “Not True,”

“Somewhat True,” or “Certainly True”:

…I usually do as I am told…
… I worry a lot…
… I am constantly fidgeting or squirming…
…I have one good friend or more…

I have heard horror stories of public school elementary teachers (outside of Methuen) who have had to take physical and verbal abuse from students in order to correspond with PBIS and model “good” behavior. The worst part is that PBIS emphasizes “rewards” for good behavior. These “rewards” include raffle tickets, pizza parties, candy, prizes, etc… Although the PBIS program is currently grant-funded, you can be sure that this cost will eventually be passed on to local taxpayers as well. The history of grants shows this to be the case every time.

Our schools are not “mental health” centers. It is time that we stop wasting valuable time, money, and resources on the liberal social programs that focus on “feelings” instead of results. There are policies in place and students who violate them should be punished accordingly. This is how it works in the real world and we do not need this latest trend to plague Methuen! We need to focus our efforts on educating children in the basics: Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies. More importantly, one of the most important goals of schools should be to prepare students for life in the real world. PBIS and “Mental Health” screenings do precisely the opposite. They hold our students back. Maybe this is why so many colleges are having to establish “safe spaces” to help students deal with real-world issues. Although these programs are often well-intentioned and the people who implement them are good-natured, it is time to put an end to these Liberal schemes. Methuen parents and residents should demand better! Your influence counts. Use it!

D.J. Deeb is a Methuen resident and member of the Methuen School Committee. Deeb is an Adjunct Professor of History/Government at Bunker Hill Community College and an Adjunct Political Science Instructor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Deeb also serves as Social Studies Department Chair at Notre Dame High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He is the author of Israel, Palestine, and the Quest for Middle East Peace (University Press, 2013) and The Collapse of Middle East Peace (IUniverse, 2003).

ValleyPatriot

ValleyPatriot

The Valley Patriot is a free monthly print newspaper serving Northern Massachusetts, and Southern New Hampshire. The print edition is published by the 10th of each month and is distributed to 51 cities and towns.

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2 Responses to Methuen Parents Should Opt OUT of Mental Health Surveys

  1. Tim Andrews Reply

    February 2, 2017 at 10:49 AM

    PBIS is a evidence based practice with decades of research behind it. You do know that the link you gave is for kids 0-5 years old – not even a school age site. The rewards are not expensive, and thousands of districts all over the country implement PBIS. The data shows great reduction in problem behaviors, increased on task, in seat learning time, and improved school climate for all children. The truth is behavior is a science. PBIS uses this science to change behavior of both adults and students in a building.

  2. Anonymous for Safety Reply

    February 10, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    This is a medical exam. Who is conducting the exams? Are parents being notified of their privacy rights? Where is the HiPPA compliance and training? Parents shouldn’t have to opt out of a medical exam; they should have to opt in! This is just another liberal agenda item that runs contrary to the law because the liberals want it…

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