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Groups Denounce Proposed “Zero Tolerance” Rules for Students

Posted: May 15, 2012|Category: Students' Rights

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Ten organizations have submitted written testimony objecting to proposed Department of Health (DOH) regulations that would reinstate a “zero tolerance” scheme in schools for students possessing any over the counter medications in school without advance written parental authorization.

Noting that the policy would apply to students carrying “a Tums, a Tylenol or a skin cream,” the groups called the proposal “unnecessary and extremely problematic” and urged its rejection. Below are excerpts from the groups’ testimony:

"It is extraordinarily paternalistic (not to mention potentially embarrassing) to tell a 17-year-old high school student that she must, for example, obtain and submit written permission from a parent to bring Midol to school. But that is exactly what these amendments would appear to dictate. This type of “zero tolerance” approach to OTC medication was rejected many years ago by the Department, and there is no compelling reason to be reinvigorating it at this juncture.

It is not just that such a policy is bound to end up being ignored by many students (and some parents). Worse, it is bound to end up causing them to shrug off appropriate limitations on medication use. Schools are an important place to teach students lessons about the potential dangers of drug abuse. But when they impose bans on aspirin for 16 and 17 year olds without written parental approval, some students understandably turn off all messages about drugs.

Any student violating this “advance written approval” requirement will clearly be in violation of school rules and subject to disciplinary sanction. This will benefit no one. We recognize the Department’s interest in seeking to protect the health of students, but this change is unnecessary and extremely problematic.”
The groups submitting the testimony at a DOH public hearing held yesterday were: the Rhode Island ACLU, Rhode Island Council of Community Mental Health Organizations, Mental Health Association of RI, Drug and Alcohol Treatment Association of RI, Tides Family Services, Urban League of RI, Children’s Policy Coalition, RI Disability Law Center, Direct Action for Rights and Equality, and the Providence Youth Student Movement.

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