Giving a student medication at school is not always as simple as sending pills to the school nurse. There are a number of issues surrounding what meds a school can administer to students. What happens, for instance, if a child requires ongoing prescription medication repeatedly throughout the school day? What kind of documentation, diagnoses or prescriptions are required? Does a school have the authority to administer the drug at school? What about if a student injures himself at school and requires immediate medical care in an emergency? Can a teacher administer pain medication? This section provides background information on medical administration, schools' authority to dispense medication, and more.
Background: Medication Administration
School administrators couldn't have predicted how common the medication of children would become in the modern age, but children of all ages with conditions ranging from diabetes to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) require medication in order to keep them healthy and productive. States have enacted laws and school districts have written policies outlining how school officials can safely provide students with their necessary medications throughout the day.
Each state has provided some process for allowing school officials to administer medications; however some states permit school officials to regulate dosage, while others require state-licensed nurses to do so. In the latter sort of state if a nurse is not present to administer the medication the parent must come to the school to medicate their child. The problems this creates led some states to allow non-licensed officials to administer medication, though staff that does so need special training in the administration of medication.
Self-Administration of Medication: Common Provisions
Federal law is silent on the issue of the medication of school children. Laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act require reasonable accommodations for individual students with medical conditions, but the law doesn't make specific mention of the self-administration of medicine. States have taken various positions as regards the self-medication of students. Many have published guidelines setting policies, for example, permitting asthmatic students to carry an inhaler. However, even where these policies exist they may be silent on many issues relating to self-administrated medication. In many cases, local school districts are free to set policies regarding the self-administration of medications.
Vaccinations are an area of growing controversy. Parents are increasingly reluctant to have their children vaccinated for fear of potential medical issues they fear arise from vaccination. Specific vaccination requirements vary from state to state, but most states require kindergarten, pre-kindergarten, and daycare students to have proof that they have been vaccinated for polio, hepatitis, varicella, diptheria, tetanus, acellular, pertussis, measles, mumps, and rubella. Children who are 11 or older and entering the sixth grade must have proof that they received these vaccinations as well as vaccination for meningitis.
Some states have permitted exemptions for children based on their medical, religious, and philosophical reasons. Some states have passed legislation eliminating some of these exceptions out of concern that reduced rates of vaccination overall have created new risks for illnesses that have been considered effectively eliminated for the past several generations.