Posts tagged ‘Janni’

Back to January

Having successfully navigated his way to Oprah, Michael Schofield has now predictably gotten his book deal. It will be titled, January First: One Child’s Battle with Schizophrenia. In addition , 20/20 is rumored to be  covering the story. Given the even handed way ABC addressed mental illness last time and the fact that Michael has had a good chance to whittle down the “facts,”  it should prove to be that perfect blend of misinformation and fluff we’ve come to expect from major corporate media.

On Michael’s new blog, he makes a good attempt at backpedaling regarding Jani’s abuse.

Most of the attacks against me have come as a result of me being overly dramatic in my writing (the “starving” and “hitting her as hard as we could” are the two most egregious examples). Such writing is unfortunately a legacy of my training as a writer, which occurred long before Jani, as well as my own tendencies developed from my favorite writers over the years. Such writing captures the emotions of what I feel, or in those cases felt (powerless to affect any change in Jani’s behavior) but is not appropriate in cases such as this where no drama is necessary. I don’t intentionally try to pump up the story. I am just writing what I feel, and what I feel is often worse than the real situation. It is has been a hard habit to break and I am still working on it.

And what a legacy it is. I find it interesting how pliable a thing “truth” is to him. If you can claim to have abused your child for dramatic effect, couldn’t you even more easily deny it for the sake of appearance? Maybe the truth is something no one will know outside of the family but what seems painfully obvious is that in either case, it’s secondary to selling a story. It really seems as though he grooms the story to suit his audience and it makes me wonder what other grooming is going on — which brings me to the next creepy turn of events.

The Schofields have enlisted the services of Steve Truitt — a talent coach, media trainer, life coach and hypnotherapist. I think if one were to write a book about a child’s emotional state being exploited in a situation where truth is already a hazy commodity, the talent coach/hypnotherapist would probably be introduced some time around chapter three and the outcome would be predictably bad simply by his being there. That’s fine for a novel but we’re talking about a life story. A more glaring and potentially damaging conflict of interest might be hard to find, lending itself all to well to a child being groomed in the interest of personal gain and it all makes me wonder what’s more important here — Jani’s health or Jani’s story? In fairness, I don’t know to what extent or in what capacity Truitt is working for them as he’s simply listed on their website as Media: Steve Truitt but it’s a frightening addition to an already volatile mix.

December 19, 2009 at 2:02 pm 4 comments

Oprah Ignores Abuses Against Jani Schofield

Anyone who’s read this weblog for any period of time is likely to have heard of January Schofield. She and her family were on Oprah recently on a story about their struggle with her “mental illness.” I find it appalling that Oprah, much like Shari Roan, covered the story without even mentioning the fact that Jani’s parents have admitted to beating and starving her. Michael, Jani’s father even wrote about it on his blog though after some readers’ responses he removed the part where he admits to starving her.

Maybe next time Oprah can have the parents of Rebecca Riley on. She can do a whole show about the topic of “pediatric bipolar disorder” in toddlers and the struggles they’ve faced without having to drag down the tone of the show with the fact that her mother kiled her with an overdose of clonidine. Perhaps she can do a show with the mother of Iman Morales, discussing his views on the gentrification of Brooklyn and leave out the part where the police kill him.

Let’s be honest, no one turns to daytime television for credible journalism but if someone is going to tackle a story like this, they owe it to the victim and the viewing public to tell the whole story. Oprah’s omitting the abuse of this girl amounts to endorsement of it just as Shari Roan’s original coverage of it for the LA Times did. It’s bad enough to turn a blind eye to stories like this entirely but to dig into a story and go through he trouble of leaving out the abuse and strange defenses of it is unconscionable.

It’s just one more case of the media looking the other way when those diagnosed as mentally ill are abused and when you dig a little deeper and find out how much it’s happening it is truly frightening. The refusal to address these things is a ringing endorsement of it and it’s happened throughout our history with regard to different groups of people on the basis of class, race, gender — you name it. The difference is that we now look back on it with shame and, however delayed, some amount of outrage. I wonder how long it is going to be until you can no longer beat and starve another human being and — as long as they are deemed mentally ill — be regarded as a struggling hero.

October 8, 2009 at 9:16 am 2 comments

January First?

January

The LA Times did a story on a 6 year old girl named January Schofield who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia–a shockingly uncommon age for an already uncommon diagnosis. The reporter, Shari Roan had an interesting take on the story, but what was even more striking was what she chose to omit.

The father, Michael, is a writer and has a blog detailing his life with a supposedly schizophrenic child. In brief, he admits to some horrifying behavior in the way of parenting and if this child is excessively violent, it doesn’t seem as though you’d have to go far to find the root of the problem.

“…We tried starving her. We did EVERYTHING we could to try and break her…at times Susan and I both lost it and hit Jani as hard as we could. We hit in impotent rage…We saw Janni today and she was at her most psychotic in several weeks. I have a nice welt on my arm where she hit me when I refused to call her toy rat “99.”Of course, I was goading her, but I wanted to see if she could deal with it. Of course, she couldn’t”

He later removed from his blog the part about starving her , oddly leaving the hitting in. He also appears to have gone from doctor to doctor until he got the diagnosis he wanted which now gives him carte blanche to administer an alarming amount of drugs to her including high doses of Thorazine and Haldol.

Children are complex and I don’t think you can take all of the undesirable behaviors of a child, find one cause, label it and medicate it away. It’s harder but I think you have to treat each behavior as its own action. Encourage imagination even if you don’t understand it, treat violence as violence, develop social skills even as social structure is questioned.

I urge you to read the story and the later commentary regarding it on both Furious Seasons (scroll down to it) and The Trouble with Spikol. That for me is where it gets particularly interesting and ugly. A number of readers on both of these sites are quick to defend the parents and condemn people for rushing to judgement. I have to wonder where we are as a society if we are not willing to judge people based on their actions. I don’t think we need reasons or mitigating factors here. We’re talking about adults hitting a six year old with all of their strength and starving her, talking about breaking her, referring to themselves as staff when they are in her presence, the list goes on. Some things are always wrong.

Upon being asked by a reader how Shari Roan could have written this story but omitted the abuse that both parents admit to she said, among other things:

“They have also hit due to sheer exhaustion and loss of self-control…I am certain this is not the case of a normal child who has been abused. This child has a horrible mental illness that has destroyed her and her parents.”

This sounds a lot like this supposed mental illness in some way makes January’s abuse more acceptable or understandable. “This is not the case of  a normal child that has been abused.” No, of course not, you’re not allowed to abuse “normal” children. I am not saying The Schofields are horrible, loveless people through and through. I do not know them. I am simply saying that they have abused their own child (prior to the diagnosis, if that makes a difference) in a manner that may have gotten her removed for her own safety if she were not labeled with schizophrenia. If we can’t judge people, may we always at least judge actions.

I have to believe it’s a statement about how we view people who are diagnosed as mentally ill. Treat them as you wish, you will not be held accountable. If we are to accept the notion, and I do not, that mental illness is a type of biological disease like cancer or epilepsy, then standards of care should be universal. I know of no disease that is routinely treated punitively and no sickness that makes it more tolerable for this to happen, if anything, less so seems to be the trend.

July 22, 2009 at 10:23 am 50 comments


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