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News of the Day ... In Perspective


New law forbids schools to force Ritalin on pupils

In December 2004, President Bush signed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, which incorporates the Prohibition on Mandatory Medication Amendment. The Amendment went into effect July 1.

This new law prohibits schools from recommending or requiring that a child take a controlled substance as a prerequisite for attending school. This includes all stimulants, such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and Dexedrine. The law reflects a growing concern about the burgeoning use of these drugs. The production of Ritalin has doubled since 2000.

Medical professionals are on both sides of the emotional debate over this issue.

Child psychiatrist Lance Clawson of Cabin John, Md., says the new law could make teachers fearful of communicating their concerns. He believes that teachers are best equipped to identify abnormal behavior because they see so many children every day.

Pediatrician Karen Effrem of Plymoth, Minn., stated that children are often misdiagnosed. The law does not keep teachers from speaking out, she said. “What it does is prevent teachers from becoming physicians.”

She added that “there’s a lot of overuse and forced use of medications going on.”

Congress is threatening to block federal aid to schools that try to force medication on students against their parents’ wishes.

Rep. John Kline (R-MN) has introduced legislation that would expand the law to include psychoactive medications such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft (H.R. 1790, the Child Medication and Safety Act of 2005). (McClatchy Newspapers 7/11/05).

Additional information:

Action Alert: Mandatory Mental Health Screening for Children, 7/7/04

“Drug Abuse,” AAPS News, January 2001

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