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Education Reporter

Testing Takes the Low Road
High school students undergo depression screenings

BOSTON, MA -- On October 7, students at Holliston High School and about 10 other high schools across the country were subjected to a different type of test -- an exam to find out if they are depressed. School administrators said the surveys purpose was to determine the prevalence of depression among the students.

The depression exam was developed by the National Mental Illness Screening Project, and has been given annually on "National Depression Screening Day" since 1991, mostly to college students. Holliston officials said they made the decision to administer the test last year when a state behavior survey showed that 25% of Holliston students had contemplated suicide and 12% claimed to have actually made an attempt. (Metrowest Daily News 10-7-99)

The test consists of 27 questions about personal habits, sleeping patterns, and feelings. Questions include: Do you feel hopeless? Do you have trouble concentrating? Do you contemplate suicide? Students must rate their responses on a scale of 0 to 2 and tally their own scores because survey results are anonymous. They are told that a score of 20 or higher could indicate a problem and are given a list of resources to contact for help.

Not everyone agrees with the premise that young people should be tested for depression in the public school classroom. One citizens group held a protest at Holliston on the day of the screening. They contend that the underlying purpose of such tests is to place more children on anti-depressant drugs including Prozac, which they say "induce psychosis and make people violent."


A related concern is student profiling, a violence-prevention technique that has been introduced at some U.S. high schools in the wake of the Columbine tragedy. Student profiling is similar to FBI criminal profiling -- it uses a checklist of characteristics believed to be common among potentially violent students including abusive language, cruelty to animals, and fascination with weapons.

Critics say that profiling violates students civil rights, and represents an overreaction to recent school violence. A spokeswoman for the ACLU was quoted by ABC News Web as saying: "Not only are students being unfairly targeted, but in some cases theres not a whole lot of thought going into it."

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