Congress soon will vote on legislation that has the psychiatric and mental-health communities agitated. Advocates of the bill say it will return to parents the power to decide whether a child should be medicated to get in school or stay there, and many see this measure as a warning bell for future debate about the legitimacy of childhood psychiatric disorders.
The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has been scheduled for reauthorization in May as HR 1350. An amendment to it, the Child Medication Safety Act, introduced by Rep. Max Burns (R-Ga.), requires no taxpayer funding but mandates that "State educational agencies develop and implement policies and procedures that will prohibit school personnel from requiring a child to obtain a prescription [for a controlled substance such as Ritalin] as a condition of attending school or receiving services."
In other words, the amendment would prohibit teachers and school administrators from requiring a child to take a controlled substance to receive a public education, returning the decision to parents and their physicians. Already a handful of states have passed similar or more stringent guidelines prohibiting schools from requiring that children be drugged to control behavior, and a dozen more states currently are considering such legislation.