Administration Of Prescriptions To Students by School Employees

The administration of medication to students in Ohio schools is governed by federal law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA) and Ohio law (R.C. 3313.713), and sometimes modified by board of education policies. 

Medication Administration Under Federal Law

As a starting point, Section 504 prohibits discrimination against students on the basis of disability. A disability includes any mental or physical impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. In 2009, the definitions of both “substantially limits” and “major life activity” were greatly expanded. In order to be considered substantially limiting, an impairment “need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the individual from performing a major life activity.”  29 C.F.R. 1630.2(j)(ii). Major life activities now include, but are not limited to, “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.” 42 U.S.C. 12102(2)(A). The essence of the amended definitions is that, if the condition merely negatively affects a major life activity at any point (even if only randomly or intermittently), it will be considered a disability. (Note: While the concept of “undue burden” limits the duty to provide accommodations in the employment context, it does not apply to students with disabilities.)  Therefore, an increased number of students are now entitled to a 504 Plan and/or an accommodation in order to have access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).  

Medication Administration Under Ohio Law 

Ohio Revised Code 3313.317 requires boards of education to adopt policies on the authority of its employees to administer drugs prescribed to students enrolled in the schools of the district. The policy must provide that, “except as otherwise required by federal law, no person employed by the board shall…administer any drug prescribed to any student enrolled in the schools of the district.” The exception is what matters here. Because Section 504 and the ADA require an accommodation in this case, the exception applies and medication may be administered under state law. (This exception to the state law almost always applies to students on 504 Plans or IEPs who require medication administration).  

Next, R.C. 3313.317 continues by stating that only: 1) licensed health professionals, or 2) those employees who have completed a drug administration training program conducted by a licensed health professional and considered appropriate by the board of education may administer a drug prescribed for a student. The school nurse is not always available. So, federal law requires - and the state statute allows - the school to provide the required training and designate the necessary number people to administer the medication.  

The state statute lays out the requirements that must be met before the drug can be administered. In summary, this requires that: (1) the board of education receives a written request, signed by the parent, to administer the drugs, and (2) the board receives a statement, signed by the prescriber, that includes specific basic medical information (provided in more detail in the statute). Two additional requirements that are notable include that the “parent agrees to submit a revised statement signed by the prescriber…if any of the information provided by the prescriber changes” and agrees to follow “any other procedures required by the board.”  

Designating Employees To Administer Medication

Note that the state statute requires boards of education to designate and provide approved training for all employees providing medication. So technically, the designation is not made by the school nurse, but by a board of education. This is important because the school nurse is subject to separate standards for delegation of tasks under the Ohio Nurse Practice Act. The state statute indicates that the board of education cannot require an employee to administer a drug if the employee objects on the basis of religion.  

Immunity for Administering Drugs 

Designated employees administering drugs to students are provided some degree of legal immunity against making mistakes. R.C. 3313.317 provides that, “no person who has been authorized by a board of education to administer a drug and has a copy of the most recent statement required by [the statute] prior to administering the drug is liable in civil damages for administering or failing to administer the drug, unless such person acts in a manner that constitutes gross negligence or wanton or reckless misconduct.”  Ohio’s “Good Samaritan” statute, R.C. 2305.23, may also provide additional protection from liability. Therefore, some form of immunity may apply if the administering employee is trained, receives all reports, and acts reasonably under the circumstances. 

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