States that adopt “right-to-carry” laws permitting asthmatic students to self-medicate in schools will be given preference for federal grants that fund asthma-related programs under a bill passed by Congress and sent to the president last week.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, D-R.I., and Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., urges states to voluntarily adopt laws that would provide exemptions to school drug policies and allow students to carry or have quick access to prescription inhalers.
Zero-tolerance drug policies have led schools in many states to restrict student access to prescription medications, requiring them to lock the medications in school offices or leave them in the care of school nurses. Because asthma attacks can start abruptly and lead to severe reactions and even death, passing exemptions for asthmatic students could save lives, both congressmen argued.
“When asthma attacks, every minute counts,” Rep. Stearns said on the House floor Oct. 5. “Sadly, there have been tragedies when a school child is prevented from swift access to his or her asthma medication.”
The measure was approved by voice vote in both chambers.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, 6.3 million children suffer from asthma, and the disease causes students to miss 14 million school days a year. In 2000, 4,500 asthma-related deaths were reported. Of those, 223 were of children.