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Maia Szalavitz Headshot

Tough Love Legislation Moves Ahead; Since When is Biology Not Science?

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Two things I want to call attention to: first, last week, the House Education and Labor Committee approved historic legislation to begin to regulate tough love programs for teens like boot camps and "therapeutic" boarding schools. It was mostly a party line vote, 27-16-- but several Republicans did cross over and give their stamp of approval.

The legislation would ban "disciplinary techniques or other practices that involve the withholding of essential food, water, clothing, shelter, or medical care," as well as "acts of physical or mental abuse designed to humiliate, degrade, or undermine a child's self-respect."

It also would require that teens have access to a 24-hour abuse reporting hotline-- and in my view, if a program has *no* complaints to this hotline, that should be seen as a sign that the teens don't actually have access to it! After all, if the teens are the "liars" and "manipulators" these programs say they are, even good programs should have complaints-- and even if (as I believe) they are usually not, there will inevitably be some people who complain in just about any circumstance.

Now, it's on to the rest of the House, where, because the Democrats are in the majority, it has an excellent chance of passing. Senate action will probably not occur until after the election-- the relevant committee to introduce it there is chaired by Sen. Kennedy and includes both Democratic presidential candidates.

I can't imagine either Hillary or Obama opposing it-- and if, as expected, the Democrats pick up some seats in the Fall, we may after all these years finally start to close the loopholes that allow teenagers to be incarcerated without appeal, without having committed any crime or being given any diagnosis that makes them a threat to self or others by people who aren't even trained in mental health. I will keep readers updated on when to contact their Congresspeople regarding this issue.

An additional note: this piece in today's Boston Globe really irked me. Now that 50% or more of medical and biology students are women, suddenly those fields no longer count as science? What were they thinking? Stats reaction here.

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