The House of Representatives passed a measure last month, opposed by
APA, that is intended to discourage schools from any mandate that students
take psychotropic drugs as a condition for attending class.
The bill, named the Child Medication Safety Act of 2005 (HR 1790), mandates
that states prohibit schools from requiring that students take any drug to
alter "perception, emotion, or behavior" as a condition of
attending class. The measure would cut federal education money from states
that do not comply with the bill within one year.
"This is a very difficult bill to oppose because no one wants
children told they have to be on medication as a condition of getting an
education," said Lizbet Boroughs, associate director of APA's Department
of Government Relations. "That is a decision that the parents make with
their [child's] physician."
APA opposed the measure based on a provision in the bill that was"
prejudicial" and "inflammatory" against psychiatry in
particular and against mental illness treatment in general, Boroughs said.
Supporters of the bill said that the legislation would help prevent schools
from coercing parents into seeking prescriptions for children with psychiatric
problems by threatening to bar them from the classroom unless they take the
"Parents should never be faced with the requirement of medicating
their child against their will and better judgment to ensure their child will
receive educational services," said Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the bill
sponsor, in a written statement.
Opponents of the bill were also concerned about a provision requiring the
U.S. Comptroller General to report on several issues, including the"
prescription rates of medications used in public schools to treat
children diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder,
attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and other disorders or
APA asked Kline to drop that provision until the results of a similar
General Accountability Office study requested under legislation approved last
year were reported. Those requests were rejected.
The bill passed easily based in part on the strong support it received from
the House leadership, which favored the bills' emphasis on reinforcing
parental rights against the encroaching authority of the government, Boroughs
Rep. Susan A. Davis (D-Calif.) said she opposed the bill because it was
advanced on the basis of anecdotal evidence alone. None of the witnesses who
spoke in favor of the bill at a May 6, 2003, hearing of the Education Reform
Subcommittee of the Education and the Workforce Committee could produce data
showing that school systems are now forcing students to be medicated in large
numbers as a requirement for attending class, Davis said.
"I still believe passing this legislation is an irresponsible rush to
legislative judgment without all the facts," Davis said in a recent
statement on the House floor. "We should not pass legislation over
anecdotes and isolated incidents, and I have yet to see evidence that this
legislation is necessary."
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) testified
at the 2003 hearing that it was concerned that barring schools from requiring
such medications might discourage educators from discussing students'
potential psychiatric problems with parents.
Lance Clawson, M.D., who represented AACAP at the 2003 hearing, said
conservative estimates have found 15 million American youngsters need mental
health treatment and services at any time, but only about 20 percent of those
ever receive treatment. The key to treating children with such conditions
successfully, he said, is for parents and teachers to identify problems as
early as possible and make sure the children get accurate and effective
The House passed the measure 407-12, while an identical bill passed the
House last year 425-1. APA has worked hard to make sure no companion measure
is introduced in the Senate, Boroughs said. So far those efforts have paid
off, but with solid support among the House Republican leadership it remains
possible that the legislation will advance as an amendment to a larger
The text of the Child Medication Safety Act of 2005 is posted at<http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/thomas>;
search on the bill number, HR1790.EH. ▪