Nurses, parents talk to state senators about OTC medicine in schools

Several school nurses spoke to Kansas state senators today about a bill that would allow them to give students over-the-counter medicine with written parental consent.

While some school districts now allow nurses to give such medicine as aspirin or Tylenol to students without a doctor’s written authorization, the Wichita school district requires a doctor’s order to dispense over-the-counter medicine. Some parents and school nurses in other school districts, such as Augusta, say that policy hurts students from low-income families that can’t afford to see a doctor.

Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, who heads the Senate’s education committee, called Wichita’s policy “barbaric.”

She said she wasn’t sure what the committee would do with the bill, sought by Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita.

In response to Schodorf’s comment, Mandy Pilla, a former school nurse from the Wichita area who is now retired, said she was “really sad that’s the perception” of Wichita’s policy.

Tamra Hall, who works at Hyde Elementary School, said after the hearing that the idea that nurses don’t help students in pain is absurd.

Opponents of the bill say allowing over-the-counter medicine without a doctor’s order could open school districts to lawsuits.

Proponents of the bill say school nurses are trained and educated and can help students stay in school. They say requiring a parent to get a doctor’s order to give out medication such as aspirin or an ointment is burdensome and can cause students to miss school and parents to miss work.

Diane Gjerstad, a lobbyist for Wichita schools, said the district’s concern about the bill is “we’re reading that if you have a policy on meds, any medicine a parent would send would have to be distributed.”

She said individual school districts should be able to set their own policies. She also said any state law would “need to be manageable. We don’t want to have a fully stocked pharmacy.”

Read more about the discussion in Wednesday’s Eagle.