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There’s another side effect from the strange medical case in LeRoy: anger.

That anger was on full display Saturday at LeRoy High School. Hundreds of parents and community members gathered for answers at a meeting hosted by the school district. The meeting was the latest public response to the case of students suffering from “tics” (uncontrollable physical and vocal spasms).

A panel of local education leaders and environmental specialists were present and attempted to answer questions in a turn-by-turn format. B
ut parents weren’t very receptive. An unidentified woman, who said she was a parent and a local business owner, took over the meeting at one point, screaming at the panel.

“You need to prove to us that it is safe to put our children in this school,” the woman said. Then she implored other parents to pull their children out of the school and send them elsewhere.

“You are not doing your job at all!” she yelled at superintendent Kim Cox. “We need to stand up as parents and fight for the rights of our children – you’re not!”

Cox was quick to fire back.

“No one came to us and said, ‘Something’s going on here, you’d better look into it.’ It was us,” she said. “We reached out for help to medical professionals…we worked with experts. No physician, no doctor, no expert came to us and said, ‘There’s a problem in LeRoy.’”

The official medical diagnosis to this point is conversion disorder: a neurological condition loosely associated with group-think, or subconscious imitation of another’s symptoms. Often times the disorder is described as being brought-on by stress.

But that hasn’t been enough of an answer for some affected children and their parents, who have gone on national television imploring doctors for treatment. So far, there has been no definitive answer to their cries for help. That’s frustrating many parents. Several stood up and accused the district and superintendent of not being forthcoming;

“They are parents; these are their babies,” Cox later said in a private meeting with media. “Of course they’re going to do whatever they need to, to find an answer that they can fix. I can’t blame people for loving their children,” she said.

Coinciding with the meeting, an interim report was released late Friday by the State Department of Health, detailing their scientific findings so far in the case. The report makes three major points:

• No definitive environmental cause has been found;
• the Department of Health is standing by the conversion disorder diagnosis;
• and the school building is safe.

The DOH report notes that three affected students likely had pre-existing issues with “tics” before attending LeRoy High School. Those conditions have apparently been exacerbated during the attention period. The involved students also had no significant similarities in daily routine or school involvement: they range in age from eighth grade to high school seniors – two play soccer and four are cheerleaders. Not all received common vaccinations and at least five have had negative tests for increased metals within the body (such as iron or zinc). Full report available HERE

Despite all of the information gathered so far, the district is going further and contracting with new environmental group Leader Professional Services. The company specializes in air, soil and water studies and has ordered comprehensive tests and re-tests of the school buildings and grounds.

Despite the shouting, there were parents who spoke to defend the district.

“I think the community needs to take a step and look at what our school district has done…there is confidence and class sitting at that (panel) table,” said Renee Robinson, who has three children in the school district. Robinson says she’s also a well-educated nurse practitioner.

“They (the school district are using knowledge and skill to handle this situation,” Robinson said. “It’s okay to want further testing, but it is completely irresponsible and unfair to these girls (for the community) to not support them."

Others praised the district as well.

Superintendent Cox said she’ll continue to provide information to the community through the internet, memos and to some extent, the media. But she remains cautious about disclosing too much information in what's so far been a muddled picture.

“Because of the nature of this, and the personal nature…it’s a very fine line, I have to be careful. I’m charged with that,” said Cox. “Not every parent was comfortable with us doing this (meeting) today. I have to balance, and meet the needs of all of them.”

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Comments

# Debra Shultz
Saturday, February 04, 2012 4:09 PM
Superintendent Kim Cox is doing an absolutely wonderful job in providing information to us all in a professional, intelligent, and most importantly, caring voice. I commend her, especially under the stress she must be feeling. On the other hand, in my opion, the moderator for this forum took the school a couple of steps back, leaving the school in an unfavorable and untrusting light with already anxious, concerned parents and the community. Being uncaringly curt is NOT going to help the schools view from very concerned parents and the community. And it certainly will not help anyone to feel good about putting trust in the school rather than looking to the media. A polite, firm and caring moderator is desperately needed to move forward in a positive, reassuring light. Also, a bit more time would have been beneficial. I did not have the opportunity to make a statement I feel is very important. That being; The community needs to stand behind our school and for that to happen, our school needs to stand behind our community and deliver continued information. Providing caring, informative and timely answers to our questions is very important. If we get the answers from our school, there should be no need to seek them elsewhere and we will be able to calm our childrens concerns as well as our own.
# Frank P
Monday, February 06, 2012 5:45 PM
Kim Cox should be fired. She handled this in a very distrusting unprofessional manner.She thinks the kids made this all up.To eject national environmental experts form helping was so wrong. Fire her. Its all about the kids we hear at budget times. Now its all about a hurry up and get this behind us no matter how much the kids suffer. Fire her.
# Allan S
Monday, February 27, 2012 2:03 PM
I've been following this story in the national media, and my problem with the diagnosis is that this "conversion disorder" argument sounds just what they were saying about Lyme disease clusters 20 years ago. You can do all the studies you want on the presence in blood samples of various metals and other known pathogens that equate to known potential environmental risks. But what happens if the pathogen is organic (a virus or bacteria or whatever) that isn't known? With a biochemical signature that's not known yet? With a presence at only certain locations/in certain types of tissue? With a completely unknown organism and symptomatic lifecycle? It's pretty difficult to test for such a presence unless you know what you're looking for going in.

If you don't, the potential for mis-diagnosis is huge.. and that's exactly what happened with lyme disease (which was, for the first two decades or so of its epidemic spread, routinely diagnosed as a psychosomatic disorder when, in actuality, the pathogen involved was slowly eating away at the brain tissue of its mostly young victims).

These things take time to figure out, and anyone determined to quickly go on TV with a diagnosis of Conversion Disorder, is, in my opinion, something of a potential quack. Sure, you should provide counseling and psychiatric care in the meantime, but you shouldn't stop looking for other potential causes.

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