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General Policy Overview

  • As of 2001, no national laws or regulations govern school administration of medication. However, national guidelines available for local adoption were published at least as early as 1990.
  • Guidelines may be found at either state or local levels. Most local policies are developed by school boards, superintendents, individuals, and other school personnel, in collaboration with local physician or medical advisory committees. When individuals searching for applicable policies or regulations, they should always start at the local level and work up.
  • According to a 2001 U.S. Congressional Subcommittee report, a total of 37 states and the District of Columbia have statutes, regulations, and/or mandatory policies addressing medication administration at schools.
  • Many states have sovereign immunity laws that shield public employees, including school personnel and nurses, etc., from liability for negligence. Local procedures and policies generally require parents’ signatures to release school districts and employees from liability.
  • Many state and local policies permit “delegation” of medication administration (usually restricted to licensed nurses) to trained but unlicensed assistive personnel (UAPs) within school settings. They may be school principals, teachers, secretaries, or administrative assistants within the health services office., school principals, or teachers. Certain duties cannot be delegated, such as secured storage of controlled substances.
  • Self-administration policies vary greatly from state to state and within school districts. Many require student assessment for age and maturity; others simply require authorizations from prescribers and parents. Almost all include signed releases of liability.
  • States may require compulsory medication, in the form of immunizations/vaccinations of school children, as prerequisites to school attendance. As of 2000, 23 states had passed immunization requirements for hepatitis B vaccinations. Many had additional requirements for measles, varicella, tetanus, and diphtheria. Schools may offer free or low-cost immunizations to students in conjunction with these requirements.

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