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‘Oppositional Defiant Disorder’ – Real or an excuse for bad behavior?

Is ODD a mental disorder or just an excuse for bad behavior?

Here are two stories – both with the same root cause.

In one, the family of a high school senior was suing the district and the school over a tweet the student sent out defaming the principal – among other disciplinary matters.
One of the reasons given was that the child suffers from ODD – or Oppositional Defiant Disorder – which according to the South Jersey Times, quoting the lawsuit, is a condition “characterized by oppositional behavior and difficulty with authority.”

Long story short: the district settled with the student’s family and will amend it’s social media policy.

In the other, the Manalapan Police Department is being sued for using force on a black special-needs child. According to the Asbury Park Press:

The suit stemmed from two incidents in 2009 and 2010. In both incidents police responded to the school to assist staff with the (student) for disciplinary issues. Both times police had the child taken to Centra­State Hospital in Freehold for psychological evaluation. According to documents in the lawsuit, the boy had been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder in 2008. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry defines the disorder as an ongoing pattern of uncooperative, defiant and hostile behavior.

So far the district is on the hook for $33,000 in legal fees.

Much like I documented the struggles of Robin Williams – his depression – and the stigma attached to it; is it then fair to ask whether or not ODD is truly a mental disorder – or just an excuse on the part of a child to “act out? Have you ever known anyone who’s been treated for ODD?

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