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Mom says school made her give Ritalin to son


(August 9, 2002) - MILLBROOK - A mother says her son's behavioral problems got worse after school officials gave her an ultimatum: Put the first-grader on Ritalin or he'll be placed in special-education classes.

Patricia Weathers has filed notice that she will sue the Millbrook Central School District on behalf of her son, Michael Mozer, for the mental and physical pain she says he suffered for two years starting in 1997.

Michael, she said, had trouble focusing and was easily distracted. Officials in the Dutchess County school referred her son to a pediatrician who prescribed Ritalin, Weathers said.

By the third grade, Michael was suffering from insomnia, he lost his appetite and was so anxious he chewed his shirt sleeves, collars and pencils, she said. 

School officials suggested more medication, she said. Michael began taking another version of Ritalin plus Paxil, an anti-anxiety drug.  

"He was having side effects that were making him literally psychotic at one point," she said.

Michael's behavior improved on weekends and over breaks, when she would not give him the drugs, she said. She finally stopped medicating her son in December 1999 after he told her voices in his head were telling him to do bad things, she said.

Michael, now 12, was prohibited from entering the school, Weathers said. She now home-schools him and another son.

In February 2000, school officials filed a complaint with the state

Department of Children and Family Services, Weathers said. An investigation cleared her of wrongdoing after independent psychiatric evaluations found her son's sickness was related to the drugs.

An employee in Millbrook Superintendent W. Michael Mahoney's office said the district would not comment.

The Department of Children and Family Services declined comment, citing confidentiality, a spokesman said. 

Copyright 2002 Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.