Last Updated on March 18, 2021 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Under both California and federal law, schools CANNOT make drugging kids a condition of attending school. This means that if a child is alleged to have “behavior issues” there is no requirement parents seek out a mind-altering substance to control them in the classroom. Despite this, there is often a LOT of pressure from school officials, teachers, etc. for parents to control a non-conforming child by use of drugs. Prior to giving in to the pressure, PLEASE look at alternative methods of controlling behavior as described below.
Over the years, I have consulted with thousands of parents with problems in the schools. Conflict arises when a student cannot sit in their seat 4-6 hours a day without distracting other students with foot tapping, jokes, fidgeting, or other activity. The intolerance is large and the schools have become much more focused on CONTROL of children.
Many parents, as a result, have been pressured by the schools to make their child “fit in” within the public school classrooms and their method of instruction. Unfortunately, the typical classroom does not work for all kids. As such, parents may hear little hints and/or direct suggestions from a child’s teacher that “he may have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), you should get him evaluated.” Or, “he won’t be able to stay in MY classroom unless he gets himself under control- have you looked into XYZ medication?” The pressure can be intense and unrelenting.
Thankfully, there is NOTHING a school or district can do if you refuse to put your child on medication to control their behavior. Now, when I talk about medication, I am referring to psychotropic medication. In general terms, this is medication which is prescribed by an MD (Medical Doctor) or a Psychiatrist to purportedly handle attention, hyperactivity, mood, depression, anxiety, behavior, and other activities that are not “normal.”
Before looking to medication as the “answer,” consider these options:
1) Placement in a different setting which allows for more movement, interaction, independent study, etc. — whatever may work for your child. There are charter schools, private schools, home schools and many options other than the public schools.
2) Student Study Team (SST) meeting to develop a support plan for a child in regular education.
3) 504 Plan to develop reasonable accommodations to help your child BE in the classroom, for example: frequent breaks, the ability to walk around the room or complete a task for the teacher, access to counseling with staff, etc. There are so many accommodations which can be made if behavior is impacting school, it is unbelievable. The student, however, has to have some sort of identified disability which impacts learning and/or other areas of existence prior to qualifying for a 504.
4) Behavior Support Plan (BSP): These plans may be developed in conjunction with the SST, 504, or special education. I have been surprised with how many students with behavior problems in school have no and/or inadequate BSPs. This is a fabulous tool to evaluate and handle behavior issues.
5) Medical evaluation: a child may also need a full medical evaluation to discover what PHYSICAL problems may be causing behavior issues, such as allergies, vision problems, hearing problems, low thyroid, diabetes, or a myriad of other physical problems impacting behavior.
6) Alternative Mental Health: Parents also should consider alternatives to drugging such as listed at the site alternative mental health.com. This site says it is “the largest site for non-drug approaches for mental health.” As psychotropic drugs may be “mind-altering” to a student and can have severe side effects, I would urge parents to look at every alternative prior to proceeding with drugs for behavior. There may be another way.
The bottom line is that parents are in charge of their child’s mental health and must help them if they have issues. The school cannot force a parent to drug a child, and parents must be ready to resist the pressure. You can do it!
Education Attorney for Students
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Please see my disclaimer. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting. This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.