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.
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.
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.
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.
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.