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New York Post
August 7, 2002 | 4:00am
The boy, Michael Mozer, plans to sue the school officials who went so far as to file a medical-neglect and child-abuse complaint against his mother with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services after she stopped the medication.
They even banned him from attending classes unless he was drugged and then accused his mother, Patricia Weathers, of educational neglect.
Michael’s 32-year-old mom says she felt “intimidated, scared and unsure” in 1997 when officials at the Millbrook Elementary School allegedly told her that Michael, a first-grader, would be transferred to special-education classes if he didn’t start taking the drugs.
“The school was telling me that he couldn’t learn unless I medicated him,” she said.
After two years of knuckling under, she stopped drugging him.
Now the Dutchess County mom and son have enlisted the help of high-powered New Jersey lawyer Alan Milstein, who has a reputation of aggressively going after influential medical institutions accused of injuring their human-research subjects.
The drugging began after a teacher became concerned that Michael exhibited symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
School officials referred him to a pediatrician who, Weathers said, prescribed Ritalin after spending just minutes reviewing the first-grader’s school file.
She said the drug just seemed to make Michael worse.
By the third grade, Michael was suffering from insomnia, lack of appetite and anti-social behavior, and suffered such anxiety he began chewing on his own shirt sleeves, collars and pencils. Once he even started gnawing on a test sheet.
School officials allegedly told Weathers her son was bipolar and suffering from social anxiety.
They suggested more medicine – and this time the doctors prescribed a cocktail of Dextrostat, another version of Ritalin, and Paxil, an anti-anxiety drug.
“They kept labeling him with disorders, not realizing the side effects of the drugs was making him act this way,” Weathers said.
“My son was becoming psychotic with these drugs . . . He was out of control.”
Fed up, Weathers stopped medicating her son in December 1999 when Michael pleaded, “Mom, make it stop – there’s a person inside my head telling me to do bad things.”
Weathers says school officials prohibited Michael from entering the school and in February 2000, filed a complaint against her with the state child-abuse hot line.
“His behavior at school is bizarre: He hears voices and appears delusional, he chews on his clothes and paper, he talks to himself and rambles when he talks,” according to the complaint school officials filed with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services.
After a monthlong investigation, Weathers said, she was cleared of any wrongdoing because she was able to prove through independent psychiatrist evaluations that her son’s sickness was related to the drugs.
A spokesman for Children and Family Services had no comment on the Weathers case.
Six months after taking Michael off the drugs, a physical examination showed the boy had a heart murmur. Weathers believes the problem resulted from the drugs. Heart murmur is recognized as a rare side effect of drugs similar to Ritalin.
Milstein refused to discuss the particulars of the case until he files the lawsuit.
He said he expects to file in about two weeks.
Milstein emphasized that he is suing on Michael’s behalf for the physical and mental suffering the boy endured.
The case is likely to be closely watched by educators statewide because it could determine whether public-school officials and pill-pushing psychiatrists are liable for the physical and mental damages that may occur when parents are coerced to medicate their kids.
For years, advocates have complained that schools are too quick to label rambunctious kids with ADHD and push for medication.
The lawsuit will not address the more controversial issue of whether school officials can force parents to medicate their children, Milstein said.
“I don’t care about the money,” said Weathers, who formed her own advocacy groups to prevent schools from forcing parents to medicate kids. “My son suffered. I also suffered, but now I’m out there talking to the media trying to make a difference.”
Meanwhile, W. Michael Mahoney, the superintendent of the Millbrook Central School District refused to comment on the case because he wanted to “protect the individual rights of the students.”
Weathers chuckled when told about his response.
“He should have thought about that before I was forced to medicate my son,” she said.
Michael Mozer was told he couldn’t return to Millbrook Elementary School unless he took anti-hyperactivity drugs. Despite admitting he was hearing voices (below), school officials made a complaint of abuse against his mother when she took him off medication (bottom).
This is to inform you that you are the subject of a report of suspected child abuse or maltreatment received by the New York State Child Abuse and Maltreatment Register (State Central Register) on 2/8/200. This means that you have been identified as the person(s) who is responsible for causing or allowing to be inflicted injury, abuse or maltreatment to the child(ren)
(Child) is learning disabled and is in special ed. There is concern for child’s emotional health at this point because his behavior at school is bizarre: He hears voices and appears delusional, he chews on his clothes and paper, he talks to himself and rambles when he talks.