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House Votes on Coerced Medication

May 22, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to prohibit schools from making children with behavioral problems take medication in order to attend class.

Under the bill, passed 425 to 1, states receiving federal education money must make sure that schools do not coerce parents into medicating their children.

"School personnel may have good intentions, but parents should never be required to decide between their child's education and keeping them off potentially harmful drugs," said Rep. Max Burns (R-Ga.), who sponsored the legislation.

In recent decades, more children have been diagnosed with attention deficit or hyperactivity disorders and prescribed drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall.

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), a former schoolteacher, said that he sympathizes with the need for order in class but that "school personnel should never presume to know the medication needs of a child."

The prevalence of medication as a precondition for attending class has not been established. The bill, called the Child Medication Safety Act, provides for a congressional investigation into the use of psychotropic medication in schools.

Rep. Susan A. Davis (D-San Diego), who voted against the bill, "believed it was a solution looking for a problem," said her spokesman, Aaron Hunter.

Several states have already moved to ban schools from requiring medication.

Mary Crosby, governmental affairs director at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, called the bill unnecessary and said the issue could be better resolved at the local level. She condemned the practice but questioned the necessity of federal legislation until the problem's extent is clearer.

Addressing concerns that such a law would stifle communication between schools and parents about a child's behavior or mental health, lawmakers added a provision that allows teachers to bring up any problems they observe.

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