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School Authority to Administer Medication

  • Guidelines on administering medication 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 people searching for applicable policies or regulations, they should always start at the local level and work up.
  • According to one U.S. Congressional Subcommittee report, 37 states and the District of Columbia had 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 the "delegation" of administering medication (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.
  • Policies about students self-administrating their medications vary greatly from state to state and within school districts. Many state policies on administering medication in schools require student assessment for age and maturity; others simply require authorizations from prescribing doctors, dentists, 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. More than 40 states have student 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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