The School Insists We Medicate My Daughter!

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My daughter has ADHD. She sometimes “acts out” but is not a behavior problem.  At the IEP meeting, the Assistant Principal demanded that we put her on meds. He gave us a deadline date. If we did not comply, he would call 911 for any “acting out.” Is this legal?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act expressly forbids school personnel from requiring a child to take meds. Period.

You need to read what IDEA 2004 says about medication.

Turn to page 84 in your Special Ed Law bookSection (25) Prohibition on Mandatory Medication.

Your State Department of Education is responsible for ensuring that school districts do not require parents to obtain a prescription for medication as a condition for

  • attending school,
  • receiving an evaluation,
  • or receiving special education services.

Document with a Follow-Up Letter

You should follow up with a short letter that documents exactly what you were told.

Say that you felt intimidated by the Assistant Principal’s statements. Explain you are confused because you didn’t think school personnel could require your family to put this child on medication. Explain that you understood this is a decision that can only be made by a medical doctor.

Ask for clarification of the school’s policies on mandatory medication. Request a copy of the written policy.

Input from School Teachers

The law states that school cannot require a child to take medication before providing special ed services.

The law also says that teachers can tell parents that they suspect a problem.

Parents and teachers are usually the first to notice that a child has a problem that is affecting her ability to learn.

Teachers have experience with children with different disabilities.

Your child’s teacher can tell you that she thinks your child may have ADD/ADHD and may need medication – nothing wrong with this. It may be something you want to consider.

IDEA 2004

1412 (1) (a) (25) Prohibition on Mandatory Medication, page 84.

Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition

  1. Hi, I realize this is an older posting, but still very relevant to today. I have an 11 year old daughter. My wife and I have been non-legally separated for the past year due to strong disagreements within the marriage. I just found out that my wife is going through the process of medicating my daughter for ADHD, which she does not have. The issues regarding my daughter not seeming interested in school, not participating, are all related to broken home and an overbearing mom, add in the fact that she’s picked on at the school.

    What are my rights as a father, is there a form of letter, as a cease and desist type letter that can be written to the Principle and Teachers of the school in and effort to prevent medicating her? Her issues are issues of the heart, her world isn’t right – it’s not ADD/ADHD. The home issues are more, but I’m not here to write a book – just needing guidance to write a letter to the school. Any insight, thoughts, guidance would be appreciated. Thank you

  2. What about therapy? Can a school system demand that a child go to therapy, or continue therapy past the point that the family feels it is no longer needed, as a condition to “keep an IEP”? Please answer. Our child has completed extensive therapy and doesn’t need it anymore. We are being bullied by the school system, who are threatening to take away services if we don’t continue with therapy that our family doctor says is not needed.

    • Legally no. Document what you are being told. You can take this up the district chain of command, &/or use the dispute resolution processes the law gives parents.

    • Hello! I am a graduate student earning my Masters degree in special education. I would love to talk about this topic, specifically parent’s opinions on how schools deal with issues like this. If you would like to talk, please reply! Everything will remain anonymous, of course!

      • Hello, I’ve been called from school several times to go pick up my daughter, she’s 10 and she’s in therapy and on meds .don’t know what else to do. The medication have a lot of side symptoms and I took out for 2 weeks already and don’t want to give back. But school is going start and just to think what I’ve been thru I’m getting anxiety, but I really need advice, because I suffered a lot of pressure, even from principal from school. She’s on meds since 6yrs old and , she doesn’t sleep,eat , doesn’t grow, a lot of side effects, we change medication more than 4 times and no results.
        I really want to stay just with therapy but I’m afraid of what they going to do . So I’m looking for my rights as a parent and my daughters right as a student

      • I need guidance.
        They are forcing medication on my son and he is not allowed in the school if he is not taking the medication.

  3. What recourse can a district take if a child who is under an IEP is unable to participate at all in his/her educational program without taking medication that he/she has a prescription for? What if parent/guardian fails to medicate their child on a regular basis which results in severe maladaptive behaviors that impede all students from learning, such as removing clothing, tearing up and chewing up, spitting out pieces of clothing, purposeful release of bladder, and so on. When medicated this student is able to participate in general education quite well with special education supports/services.

  4. Does the school have to pay for the medication if the teacher brings up a possible medication need or thought of using medication?
    I was strongly discouraged from even mentioning the word “medication” to a parent at an IEP as the school district would have to pay for the med then. Seems odd to me.

    • That is a possibility depending on the situation, but not very likely. However, IDEA rule, 300.174 prohibit schools from requiring students to take medication. Comments by educators could be interpreted as violating this rule.

    • Teachers are not medical professionals and should not practice medicine, etc. without a license. Teachers must address student concerns with wisdom and professionalism when telling to a parent that a student needs help. Schools have processes in place for suggesting help such as evaluations, data, meetings, progress reports,, etc. Parents need data so they can make proper decisions and work with medical professionals. An example, the school’s data did not support a school’s suggestion for medication for my child and we went through the process. The wise doctor suggested that we take our child out of that school as the school was “wrongly” suggesting medication and not meeting the needs of a child. The school quickly met my child’s needs and more–I became a very astute advocate.

  5. What is the rule when, a student has a prescribed medication but is not given it by the parents/guardians. Also, the parents/guardians do not allow the school nurse to administer the medication. However, without the medication the student can not maintain engagement with the academic environment or peers? Or the student can not maintain engagement with the academic environment or peers without violence? Or the student can not maintain engagement with the academic environment or peers without medication because the anti-seizure, high blood pressure, or diabetes medication is not administer by the parent? This question is about students and families who already have the doctor’s interventions. Thank you.

    • The school can try to work with the family, & the doctor to find a way to help the child, but they cannot insist or force the parent to give medication. In some states, schools/educators can ask CPS to get involved.

  6. I am so glad I found this article. My youngest is under a similar mandate, only he no longer receives SPED services as he tested out of it. The school continues to harass me about making sure my son takes his meds and goes to the point of pulling him from school and driving him to our house to get them for him, without my approval! Being as we live in a small NE town it’s allowed and I am powerless to stop it.

    • If anyone takes your child from school without you knowing or your permission, that is kidnapping and their is something you can do about it. What state are you in

      • That would NOT be considered kidnapping as the child is under the supervision of school staff. Irrational comments like these only serve to escalate what needs to be a problem-solving conversation. If the medication makes that much difference in the child being successful at school, then I would question why a parent wouldn’t ensure that the child take the medication.

    • If the child has been prescribed the medication for a diagnosed condition, yes… and they should.

  7. I just wanted to mention every child with Adhd has problems sitting for long periods of time doing nothing but listening to the instructor/teacher. The type of setting would be working In teams and hands on activities which will keep her thinking. Also when reading best if she reads out loud so she hears what she is reading. When studying get a big marker board put it in her room this will help her study. Whatever she is studying needs to be big and bold she will retain the information this way. Also online have her do brain games perfect to help with memorizing.

    • I agree reading aloud is helpful. However, can be noisy. I have used a whisper-phone so kids can hear themselves read. They are not cheap to buy ready made for a whole classroom (as this is a good idea for ALL students), but can be made inexpensively–go to hardware store and buy pvc pipe–buy 2 curves/elbows/semicircles (whatever the name) and 1 straight piece. Put one elbow on each end of the staight piece and viola!

  8. I also am having a problem my daughter is 6 and was on ADHD medication until recently I read up on the medication and side effects I decided to stop the meds. Her teacher since then refuses to let her In the classroom and she has been in the office sitting all day. She said she not allowing my child to come back to class till she is medicated is this legal.

    • If she is sitting in the office then she is NOT being educated in the least restrictive environment. This is basically a preemptive in-school suspension. You need to document the details of this situation by writing a letter that clearly states what is happening, i.e. “If I understood you correctly, Sally will not be permitted back into the classroom until she is back on medication, but her IEP states she will only be removed from the general education setting for OT and speech.”. If they state a problem with behavior, ask for an FBA and behavior plan, which requires preventative and positive interventions, for instance movement breaks and small rewards for meeting behavioral goals.

  9. My husband and I are facing a similar problem, and don’t know what to do. Our son who is autistic has been having serious outbursts at school. Though he shows no sign of this at home. We had to pick him up today. The principal said until he sees a doctor, he will not be permitted to attend. We fully intend for him to see a therapist. That’s not the problem. The problem is getting him in before he misses too much school… Can they actually do this? No suspension has been filed that we’re aware of, and not even so much as a behavioral plan has been discussed.

    • That depends on what kind of behaviors constitute these “serious outbursts”, how often they occur and what triggers them? For many autistic children (and adults), simply being in a typical classroom with its 25 or so students is stressful ENOUGH to trigger extreme reactions, sometimes including violent or explosive behaviors — and no, none of these will be present at home environment. Bottom line, you are trying to safeguard the rights of your child and your child only, but school must balance his rights against the rights of other children (and employees too). Yes your child has the right to an education but if his “serious outbursts” include, for example, choking other children or throwing chairs at them, their rights for physical safety comes first.

      • Excellent response tts.
        If following a functional behavior assessment and a written behavior plan is in place, it is decided that this child cannot be appropriately served in the current environment (given the current status) then this becomes the next step….determining where a child can be appropriately served. I would also question whether this particular child was properly evaluated by medical personnel and if so, what were the ‘experts’ recommendation? As parents, we may have strong feelings about medication, however, we should also attend to the opinions of professionals serving our children.
        As a professional, I have actually been a part of teams where a 51-A was discussed because medical professionals had recommended, strongly, medication be explored and it was ignored.

  10. Well, you can keep your child off meds like we did but when s/he gets too hard for them to handle and the assistant principal calls the fire department and has untrained hall monitors dangerously restrain your child and drug him or her out, tie her down and take him or her to the emergency room causing post traumatic stress for months afterwards, drugs will be a breath of fresh air….

    • This is either a wildly imaginative piece of dark fiction, or a personal experience that should be discussed with a therapist.

      • I have seen this occur. It should be discussed on this forum as parents have experienced this. Many keep silent and are alone. I remember several incidents as a para where the only strategy was to call 911 for the child to get help. It was the only way to activate a wider net of resources for the parents and the child. I know this as I asked too many questions after incidents when I was a para. It takes your breath away to see a child like that. I have seen students rip apart classrooms and hurt other students and staff. I have seen incidents in classrooms with kids (even elementary aged) that do require restraining, 911 calls and such. It is not dark fiction–it is reality for many parents—that reality goes into a difficult metal health system at times for those parents.

          • Not necessarily. We don’t know the home circumstances of the family and should never speculate. Often, a child with a sensory disability such as autism, for instance, has few problems at home where the parents have made efforts to get to know him/her. If the school refuses to make the effort to understand that autistic children have little to no impulse control, with high sensitivity to personal space, educators can escalate the emotional response to invasions of that child’s environment. I have experienced untrained educators grabbing a child who wanted to open a packet of Kool-Aid and lick it off the desk. The educators started wrestling over the Kool-Aid and physically restrained the child – who began kicking and fighting as reaction to the abuse. Then they tried to get police involved.

  11. Actually, in my school system teachers are – or at least were when last I taught here – forbidden to even MENTION medication to parents. Teachers aren’t medical practitioners (barring other degrees, anyway) and there was fear of lawsuits arising from such recommendations. All we can do here is suggest evaluation for suspected learning disabilities and other issues.

    The day a school acts like this about one of my children is the day I pull them and homeschool them. It’s taken me quite a few years to get myself set up to do this economically, but I’m ready now.

    • Financially not economically. You are financially prepared not economically prepared. I homeschool my daughter for 7 years and it cost zero dollars.

      • Homeschooling is dependent on the state’s laws, and most need to follow an accredited curriculum. That being said, if a school is not providing the necessary structure and environment that the child is allowed to have by law, then the school may be required – by law – to pick up some or all of the bill for alternative educational decisions made by the parents/guardians. This includes moving the child to a private school or accredited homeschooling. Most often, when faced with this reality, schools start working with the parents to begin cooperating to make sure the student’s rights are being upheld.

  12. Your child will also need a functional behavioral assessment and behavior intervention plan. If you are not familiar with these 2 documents, look them up in your Special Education Law, or All About IEPs books. These will prevent the assistant principal from arbitrarily suspending your child for behaviors related to his/her disability. It can take some time and patience to calm an asst. principal if they get ornery. But do not take intimidation tactics personally, and know your and your child’s rights. “Pleasant persistence” can win over even administrators.

  13. Isn’t threatening to call 911 if you do not medicate your child by a given date also retaliation?

    This would seem to be a situation where a recording of the IEP meeting would be useful, assuming that your state’s laws permit parents to record.

    • Federal laws say that the parents can record the IEP meeting. The state laws don’t apply. These parents should be recording these conversations and should file complaints with their state dept. of education. The things written in these comments are some of the most outrageous things I’ve read at this site.The school system has no say in whether a child is medicated or not. There is so much outrageous inappropriate behavior on the part of the school systems mentioned in these posts that it would be easy to file complaints and win.

      To Melody – the poster after you suggested the school can work with the family doctor. This is not really true. If the parents give permission by signing a release which explicitly allows the school to talk to a specific doctor, then they can.

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