Review of State Medication Policies/Guidelines Regarding Psychotropic Medications in Public Schools

Joseph B. Ryan, Antonis Katsiyannis, Mickey Losinski, Robert Reid, Cynthia Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


It is currently estimated that up to 6 million children take psychotropic medications for the treatment of mental health problems. The highest prevalence rates (50-76 %) are typically found among students with special needs, especially among those with ADHD and emotional disturbance. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require medications be administered by schools whenever it is deemed necessary for the child to have access to educational services. However, these requirements do not extend to all students, nor do they provide guidance regarding the safest and most efficacious manner in which psychotropic medications should be administered. The authors reviewed existing state medication policies and guidelines to assess the level of guidance currently provided to school staff. Results showed the vast majority of states (48) provided guidance related to the administration of medications to students, with slightly fewer (44) states discussing required documentation procedures. Surprisingly, only 15 states addressed monitoring students for adverse side effects of medications, and even fewer (11) states specifically discussed psychotropic medication in their policies/guidelines. The vast majority (42) of states also addressed requirements for the safe and proper storage of medications, while slightly more than half of all states (31) provided any guidance regarding training of unlicensed personnel (e.g., secretaries) who frequently administer medications to students. The authors highlight several model guidelines/policies and review recommendations for best practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-715
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Medications
  • School guidelines
  • School policies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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