Medication and School: How to Deal with the System

The old days are certainly long gone and the new rules for everything from visitors to the schools to medication and its dispensing are strict. We as parents might think some of the rules and the consequences of the violation are ridiculous, but follow them we must or suffer the wrath of the school system. God forbid your child should bite a pop tart into the shape of a gun and get suspended.

Proper Labeling


Medication and SchoolMost school systems have fairly strict rules for medication in school, which is understandable. It pays to pay close attention to what the rules are and do your best to follow them as much as you can.  Most school districts require that any prescription medication is brought to school in the original prescription container with your child’s name, the dispensing doctor’s name on the label, and dispensing directions. In addition, all over-the-counter medications should also be brought to school in the original container, given to the school nurse, and returned to the student or disposed of at the end of the year.

In some districts, students may be permitted to carry medication that does not require refrigeration, and is not a controlled substance. This applies mostly to high school students. However, even these still require permission to take. Students must advise their teachers before taking any medication. Some schools will issue what is known as a “medication pass” to signify that permission has been given for the student to carry medications.

Maintenance Medications


For children with a chronic illness, or something like ADHD that requires medication on a certain schedule, and other issues which previously may not have allowed the student to attend public school. Proper dispensing of maintenance medications is crucial to the child’s continued success, and ability to attend school.

Many medications are classified as a controlled substance such as opiates, antipsychotics, steroids, and hallucinogenic substances. Drugs used to treat ADHD or ADD, like Ritalin, are also controlled substances. For students who take these types of medications, the legal possession of the controlled substances for medical reasons has already been granted by the prescribing physician so the school is reduced to being responsible only for safe custody, storage and administration.

Aside from medically necessary drugs, parents may send OTC medications for short term things such as menstrual cramps, headaches, or colds. Administrators wrestle over allowing these products; are they worth the trouble of allowing them in school? It can be argued that symptom relief of allergies or colds etcetera help children’s concentration and performance in the classroom. Fighting cold or allergy symptoms make learning more difficult. Allowing access to OTC medications may increase attendance. Parents may decide that their child’s illness necessitates a day out of school if and when medications for symptom relief are not allowed in school.

Emergency Medicine


Some medications such as epinephrine for an allergic reaction requires rapid response, perhaps during a time that the nurse is unavailable. In these cases, other staff should be trained to dispense this medication.

The fact of the matter is always going to be that the actions of the few punish the needs of the many. A few students and parents who take advantage of the rules in some instances, make carrying a simple headache medication a virtual crime.

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