Monday, April 07, 2008

Disturbing News About Dr. Mel Levine, Scheduled to Speak at Mendham Township Middle School April 8

Click Here for the August 5, 2008 New York Times Update.

Parents of children who attend Mendham Township Elementary School or Mendham Township Middle School had marked our calendars and purchased tickets months ago for a presentation from Dr. Mel Levine. Dr. Levine is both a pediatrician and a learning expert. He has written several books including "A Mind at a Time," which focuses on how different minds learn differently.

This afternoon we received a notice from Superintendent of Schools Christine Johnson that the program had been cancelled, and that we should check the Mendham Township Schools web site for a complete explanation of the cancellation.

I am sure I was not the only parent who was shocked and devastated to read the following Statement from Dr. Christine Johnson, Superintendent of the Mendham Township School District:

"Please be advised that the presentations for the community on the evening of April 8, 2008 and for the staff during the day on April 9, 2008 by Dr. Mel Levine have been cancelled. We have just learned from published news accounts that Dr. Levine has been accused, in a civil lawsuit, of child abuse. Although the district has no way of knowing whether the allegations are true, the district has decided to cancel the events due to the seriousness and the nature of the charges."

I immediately Googled, "Dr. Mel Levine, child abuse" and found that on April 1, 2008, the Boston Globe had run the following banner headline and article:

Physician accused of sex abuse of children; At least 7 men say they were victims

A renowned pediatrician and bestselling author who served for 14 years as chief of ambulatory pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston is accused of sexually abusing at least seven boys in his care, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court yesterday.

The lawsuit, filed by an unnamed plaintiff who was 8 years old when the alleged abuse began, said Dr. Melvin D. Levine "sexually assaulted, battered, and abused" him between 1980 and 1985.

"Levine, during his treatment sessions, under the guise of performing repeated but unnecessary physical examinations, sexually assaulted John No. 5, including numerous acts of genital fondling, masturbation, and other attempted and threatened acts of assault," the lawsuit asserts.

In a faxed statement, Levine's lawyer, Edward Mahoney of Boston, said the doctor is innocent. "Dr. Mel Levine has provided pediatric care to more than 15,000 children over 40 years and categorically denies that he has ever been abusive in any way toward any patient," said Mahoney, who questioned the motives of the lawyer filing the suit. "He adamantly denies these claims. Dr. Levine is distressed about the distorted or misinterpreted memories from decades past and questions the motivations."

Levine, 68, who has appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to promote his books, did not return messages left at his home in Rougement, N.C., where he moved after leaving Children's Hospital. In a separate statement, officials at Children's Hospital said Levine worked there between 1971 and 1985, specializing in children with developmental and educational issues. "This work led to Dr. Levine developing a national reputation as an expert in these fields," the statement said.

Children's Hospital is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The hospital's statement said it "never had any complaint from any patient or parent of any patient suggesting inappropriate conduct of any nature by Dr. Levine." It added: "Children's Hospital's most important goal is to protect children's health and promote their well-being. Our staff is trained and experienced in detecting abuse and mistreatment of children. Such behavior, if identified, is treated with the utmost seriousness and addressed immediately."

Levine, who trained as a resident at the hospital in 1965, is now a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School in Chapel Hill. University officials did not return calls. He is the author of at least six books, including "A Mind At A Time," which was a New York Times bestseller, and helped found All Kinds of Minds, a nonprofit institute that studies learning. He studied at Brown University, was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England, graduated from Harvard Medical School, and received the C. Anderson Aldrich Award for outstanding contribution to the field of child development in 1995, according to a biography on the All Kinds of Minds website. "Dr. Levine's groundbreaking framework for understanding why children struggle in school provides a straightforward, practical system for recognizing variations in the way children learn and use their strengths to help them become more successful students," according to the biography.

The lawsuit filed yesterday was not the first against Levine alleging abuse. A federal suit filed in 1988 asserted that between 1978 and 1984 Levine conducted "improper and repeated examinations of the plaintiff's testicles out of the presence of the plaintiff's parents." The lawsuit was dismissed. In 1993, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine received a complaint from a former patient of Levine's who said the doctor had fondled his penis and asked him repeatedly about whether he was having wet dreams. That charge was also dismissed.

"The significance of this case is that now we have evidence of seven complaints of sexual abuse over a 17-year period and multiple instances for the people who were abused," said Carmen L. Durso, who is representing five of the alleged victims and held a press conference yesterday at his Boston office. "We need to find out if there are more people and whether they will support the allegations of these people, and we need to find out what Children's Hospital's role was. We don't have answers as to why Levine was able to do this with such ease."

The other alleged victims said Levine abused them when he worked in Boston, when they ranged in age from 5 to 13. The complaint did not provide details of the abuse alleged in those cases or answer why they waited so long to come forward. The plaintiff who filed the lawsuit "was unable to recall and to understand" the abuse until February 2006, the complaint said. It says he has been in therapy since. Durso did not specify the damages his clients are seeking.


In the presentation scheduled for April 8th at Mendham Township Middle School, Dr. Levine would have been presenting to parents and would not have had access to our children. In America, the accused are innocent until proven guilty. In this case, probably because of the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes, Dr. Levine is being sued in civil court rather than tried in criminal court. Yet, I believe that Superintendent of Schools Christine Johnson did the right thing to cancel the program. Until (and if) Dr. Mel Levine is cleared of the child abuse charges, I'd rather not be taking his advice on children and learning.

According to the All Kinds of Minds web site, Dr. Mel Levine is scheduled to present at The Crossroads School in Paoli, PA; Harding Township School in New Vernon, NJ; and New York City Independent School System in New York City. As of April 8th at 11:30pm, it looks like Harding Township has postponed their Mel Levine program and that Crossroads School and the New York City Independent School System are moving forward with Dr. Levine's scheduled presentations. A tough decision for school administrators and program sponsors no matter which way they come out on the issue. School district decisions with respect to Dr. Levine's scheduled presentations around the country can be found here.

Further updates on Dr. Mel Levine can be found here. To see the WCVB-TV NewsCenter Five (the ABC network affiliate in Boston) report on the child abuse allegations against Dr. Mel Levine, including an interview with Boston lawyer Carmen L. Durso, click here to access the YouTube Video.

On Monday, April 28th, I posted a brief update on the case entitled "Equal Time for Dr. Mel Levine."


Anonymous said...

Your superintendent did the right thing to cancel this presentation. Yes in America we are innocent until proven guilty- but a medical doctor who purports to be an expert and who has been trusted with the care of thousands of children should be held to a higher standard. If he had been allowed to speak, I would hope that there would have been some protest on behalf of his victims. By the way, many more have come forward. Someone I know personally was among his victims many years ago. It is a relief to learn something has been done to stop him.

Anonymous said...

Eight years ago I was forced to go through Levine's "Schools Attuned" training. For a long veteran teacher, I found this grueling seminar ridiculous and exhausting. Levine has never had children of his own and his methods give veteran teachers a feeling that they are doing everything wrong. In any case, he once gave a large-attended lecture to several schools in Fort Worth. One of these schools had a very active gay-lesbian alliance program in place for high school kids dealing with their sexuality. They asked him to address these issues in terms of his, otherwise, very complete list of social issues for older teens. Suffice it to say that he got VERY uncomfortable during this discussion and several of us thought it rather strange. Here was the GURU of child psychology and acting nervous and uncomfortable discussing gay issues. QED.

Anonymous said...


As a teacher in the field of special education and differentiating learning differences in children, I must say Dr. Levine's work into neurodevelopmental constructs as well as presenting children's strengths and weaknesses have contributed to a new template and greater understanding of the educational needs of children. I applaud his dedication and commitment to the development of children and his relentless work to improve and increase understanding of children's educational needs by both teachers and parents. I have heard him speak on two occasions and was very impressed with his presentation.

Anonymous said...

This man has dedicated his life to helping children be understood. I am saddened by the news. I know horrible things happen... but I would defend him based on my experiences.

His programs are amazing and are appreciated by new teachers as well as well as veteran teachers. I would encourage all to take the course. It involves the most modern knowledge about learning and neuroscience... the programs are not "Dr. Levine". I expect him to be cleared of these charges... he is an advocate for children.

Anonymous said...

I have read De. Levine's works and attended his seminar. He brings a clear perspective on how to understand learning difficulties, but the strategies to help students are no different than those in any other published works. The outline of these strategies is a useful guide for helping all students. The status of a person, or their employment for helping children, should make no difference in how we respond to the charges made against him. It is important to be cautious, but to let the court do the judging; we do not have all the facts and people love stories. It is also important to remain open to the possibility that people we place in high regard or who have achieved societal recognition are as capable of illegal and immoral action as any other person.