|Back to September Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 236||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||SEPTEMBER 2005|
|MN, FL Pass Pro-Parent Laws on Mental Health|
In 2001 Minnesota became the second state in the nation to pass a prohibition against school coercion of parents to drug their children with stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall. Subsequent incidents of coercion involving other types of drugs, such as antidepressants, convinced sponsors of the need to expand the 2001 legislation beyond the class of stimulant drugs. This year's education bill covers all psychiatric medications, not just stimulants.
Florida this year enacted a bill containing similar protections against forced medication or screening. The new law states: "A public school may not deny any student access to programs or services because the parent of the student has refused to place the student on psychotropic medication. . . . A parent may refuse psychological screening of the student."
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. in March vetoed a pro-parent bill that would have blocked school officials from recommending psychotropic drugs and prohibited the removal of a minor from parental custody based on the parent's refusal to administer psychotropic drugs. Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona vetoed a pro-parent bill on mental health screening. The Texas legislature, which passed a pro-parent bill on psychotropic drugs in 2003, declined to pass a universal mental health screening bill in May. (See Education Reporter, June and July 2005 and Dec. 2003.)
Legislation calling for mental health screening in schools is being considered in many states in the wake of recommendations by President Bush's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. (See Education Reporter, Feb. 2005.)
IL plan covers 0-5 years
State Rep. Patti Bellock (R-Westmont), who co-sponsored the original Illinois bill, says it went much further than she intended. She wants to sponsor new legislation requiring families to opt into the school mental health screening programs, rather than having to opt out. (School Reform News, June 2005)
In July the federal Child Medication Safety Act went into effect, requiring state education agencies to bar schools from keeping students out of class in cases when parents disagree with a recommendation to medicate a special-needs child with Ritalin or similar stimulants. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) wants to expand the act (passed late last year as part of a reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act) to include all psychotropic drugs including antidepressants.