Indiana General Assembly House of Representatives
State Rep. Jackie Walorski
Room 401-8, Statehouse
Indianapolis, IN 46204
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008
Rep. Walorski: Court Ruling is a Victory for Parental Rights
STATEHOUSE (Aug. 7, 2008) — The cause of parental rights and personal liberty won a victory Tuesday as a federal court affirmed the right of Hoosier parents to sue a school system for subjecting their daughter to mental health testing without their consent.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana ruled that a lawsuit filed on behalf of Chelsea Rhoades and her parents, Teresa and Michael, may proceed to trial. The family charges that the Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. violated the family’s rights when school officials subjected Chelsea, a student at Penn High School in Mishawaka, to the TeenScreen examination without parental consent.
“I am elated that the federal court is allowing the family the opportunity to pursue this lawsuit,” said state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Jimtown) “This kind of testing without parental consent led me to go on a petition drive that collected more than 12,000 names and eventually resulted in a state law requiring written parental approval before screenings such as this.
“The court, through its ruling, reaffirms parents’ right to control their children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing,” Rep. Walorski said, “and it sends a message to schools and agencies that they should be very, very careful about interfering with parental prerogatives.”
In December 2004, representatives of Madison Mental Health tested Chelsea and other Penn High School students using the TeenScreen, which asks questions that can be answered with only a “Yes” or a “No.” According to the lawsuit, Chelsea was diagnosed as possibly suffering from two mental health disorders. Several other students also were similarly diagnosed, the lawsuit said. Chelsea’s diagnosis turned out to be incorrect.
The Rhoades family is being assisted in the lawsuit by The Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization that provides legal services to people whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated.
Mr. and Mrs. Rhoades said they had no knowledge of the testing until after the fact, and they sued in federal court, charging that their constitutional rights to family integrity and privacy were violated. School officials sought to have the suit dismissed.
“There are boundaries to keep schools and other agencies from interfering in the parent-child relationship,” Rep. Walorski said. “Those boundaries should not be ignored or taken lightly, and this case shines a light on that issue.”