Did You Know- Schools Can’t Force Parents To Drug Students?

Female nurse

Last Updated on August 24, 2023 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Under both California and federal law, schools CANNOT make drugging students a condition of kids attending school.  This means that if a student 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, and others, for parents to control an energetic student via use of prescription or other drugs.  Prior to giving in to the pressure, parents should review the side effects as well as other less invasive options of controlling a student’s behavior.

Young girl with 6 hands pointing at her and hands over eyes
Parents can be pressured to drug students who are “out of control”

Schools May Pressure Parents To Medicate Students with Behavior Problems

Over the years, I have consulted with thousands of parents with problems in the schools. School conflict sometimes 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. In the modern age, schools have become much more focused on CONTROL of students, by whatever means necessary.

Many parents, as a result, have been pressured by the schools to make the student “fit in” to the public school classrooms.  Unfortunately, the typical classroom may not work for all students.  

As such, parents may hear little covert hints or direct suggestions from a student’s teacher that “they may have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder),” or ” you should get them evaluated.”  

Or, “the student won’t be able to stay in MY classroom unless he gets himself under control- have you looked into XYZ medication?”  The pressure on parents can be intense and unrelenting.

Thankfully, there is NOTHING a school or district can do if a parent refuses to put a student on medication to control their behavior.  This includes psychotropic medication.  

In general terms, psychotropic medication are drugs 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.”

Pills and pill holder for student
Some parents may want to consider alternatives to medication before taking the plunge

Options Parent Can Consider Before Drugging Students

Before looking to medication as the “answer,” parents may want to consider these options:

1) Placement in a different setting which allows for more movement, interaction, independent study, etc.- whatever may work for the student.  There are charter schools, private schools, home schools and many options other than the public schools.

2)  Student Study Team (SST) meeting to develop an SST support plan for a student in regular education.

3)  504 Plan to develop reasonable accommodations to help a student BE in the classroom. For example: 504 accommodations could include frequent breaks, the ability to walk around the room or complete a task for the teacher, access to counseling with staff, academic accommodations, and other useful supports.  There are so many accommodations which can be developed if behavior is impacting school, it is unbelievable.  The student, however, has to have some sort of identified disability which impacts a major life activity to qualify 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 student behavior issues.

5)  Medical evaluation: a student may also need a full medical evaluation to discover what PHYSICAL problems may be causing behavior issues. For example, students may have negative reactions due to allergies, vision problems, hearing problems, low thyroid, diabetes, or a myriad of other physical problems, negatively impacting school behavior.

6)  Alternative Mental Health:  Parents also should consider alternatives to drugging such as listed at the site alternativementalhealth.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.

7) Chronic Illness Form: A student may have a chronic medical issue, which causes them to act out, and may need to miss some school to address needs. Parents can establish a chronic illness form with a school to address these needs.

The bottom line is that parents are in charge of their child’s mental health, not the school. They must help a struggling student in they way they find medically and emotionally appropriate.

Fortunately, schools cannot force a parent to drug a student due to school behavior or other issues. Parents must be ready to resist the pressure, as it will surely come.  

Michelle Ball is a lawyer for students who has helped parents resist pressure from schools since the mid 1990s. She can intervene throughout California, in Lincoln, Modesto, Galt, Vacaville, Loomis, and many other areas.

Originally written May 3, 2011