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North Star School site to be used for mental health research

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North Star School site to be used for mental health research

 The Minneapolis School Board plans to shut down North Star Community School so that the U of M and Northpoint can acquire the site, which will be utilized for mental health research and treatment.

The proposed mental health research & treatment center on the North side will also support the Minneapolis School Board's strategy of "fixing communities of color" by putting more students and their families under juvenile court supervision.

by Doug Mann

In an interview for North News on 20 May 2006, Carol A. White reported that the Minneapolis School District plans to shut down the North Star program at its current site so that the North Star campus can be acquired by the U of M for its mental health research and treatment center.

Carol A. White is a leader of African Americans Concerned Together (AACT) and a coalition that is demanding full disclosure of plans to build a mental health research and treatment center on the Near North Side of Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis School District has been shrinking enrollment at North Star Community School, and plans to shut it down next year. North Star is among the best of the district's "racially identifiable" schools. Over 90% of the students are nonwhite and eligible for free and reduced price lunches. Standardized test scores, attendance rates and other indicators of school quality have been better than the district average. Unlike most of the district's high-poverty, high-minority schools, North Star has had a fairly stable teaching staff. 

In response to protests from parents, students & teachers about plans to close North Star last year, the Minneapolis Board of Education put off the closure for another year. The Board has not informed the community that it plans to shut down North Star Community School so that the school can be "repurposed" as a mental health research and treatment facility.

On the "Black Focus" cable TV show that aired on 14 May 2006, Ron Edwards reported that planning for the proposed U of M / Northpoint mental health treatment and research center began about 4 years ago.

The proposed treatment / research center will roughly double Northpoint's capacity to provide mental health services, such as family therapy and individual psychiatric treatment.
The target population is largely African American, and includes Minneapolis Public School students and their families who are being placed under juvenile court supervision due to referrals from the Minneapolis Public Schools for truancy, behavior, and reports of suspected neglect or abuse.

Plans for the mental health research & treatment center were probably inspired by efforts by the Minneapolis School Board to "fix communities of color" by forcing more students and their parents into the juvenile court system for truancy and behavioral problems. The school board had adopted an attendance policy in 1999 which allowed fewer 'unexcused' absences than under the old policy. The District began to fully enforce the new attendance policy in the fall of 2001. However, the district eventually had to relax enforcement of the attendance policy because the Hennepin County juvenile court system was getting swamped by referrals from the Minneapolis Public Schools.

A selling point for the proposed U of M mental health research and treatment center is that Northside residents may use the facilities free of charge. That is, in my opinion, nothing more than an attempt to sugar-coat a bitter pill. The purpose of the research and treatment center is to make it possible to force more Northside residents of color into court-ordered psychiatric treatment.
I am opposed to the proposed U of M research & treatment center because its the wrong solution to the problems that are putting families of color under stress. The underlying problem is social exclusion, i.e., limited access to quality educational programs, jobs, and housing related to institutionalized racial discrimination. The right solution, in my opinion, is to make a quality public education accessible to all on an equal basis, and to proactively enforce fair employment and housing laws.

I am also opposed to the U of M research on ethical grounds.
In my opinion, it is unethical to force a significant part of a population into psychological / psychiatric treatment, and to study that population rather than to change conditions that are producing the symptoms to be treated. In that sense the research to be directed by Dante Cichetti is comparable to the infamous Tuskegee Experiment, where black men who were diagnosed as having syphilis were denied appropriate treatment without informed consent so that researchers could study the effects of untreated syphilis over a long period of time.

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