Scottsdale parents will have to check in their own over-the-counter medicines to the school nurse's office if they want their children to have access to things like Tylenol and Tums this year.
Parents used to be able to sign an emergency card to give nurses in the Scottsdale Unified School District permission to give over-the-counter medications to students as needed.
They were able to do that because a doctor wrote a blanket order each year for certain over-the-counter drugs, said Tommey Burke, lead nurse for the district.
But that had to change this year when the district's doctor declined to write the order.
"He just had personal concerns about writing a blanket order for 26,000 kids," Burke said.
And since nurses can't legally dispense medicine without a doctor's order, the school district had to adjust its policy.
Burke said some of the district's nurses didn't like that idea at first, but she presented them with a hypothetical situation.
"In the hospital, it would be tantamount to a patient asking for something as innocuous as Tylenol. In a hospital setting, would you provide it without a doctor's order?" she said. The nurses said no.
The new policy also helps parents stay more informed about what medications their children are taking and be more involved in deciding in what instances their children should take medication, Burke said.
Parents will have to bring in any medications they want their children to have access to in the original, sealed container, then fill out a medication record with specific instructions about when the child should get medication.
"It's just much more explicit than a generic card," Burke said.
There have been some concerns raised about what happens when a child unexpectedly gets sick, since the schools won't be able to keep their own supply of over-the-counter medicine, Burke said.
But parents would be required to come to school anyway in that case, since kids have to be sent home when they have a temperature over 100 degrees, Burke said.
Some nurses were also concerned they'd have thousands of pill bottles to sift through with so many parents bringing in drugs.
But at the few Scottsdale schools that had instituted this policy in previous years to prevent students from asking for medicine when they didn't need it, there's 100 bottles at most checked in, Burke said.
"Typically you really do see the same 50 to 100 kids over and over," Burke said.
Scottsdale's new policy is similar to several other districts'.
The Mesa Unified School District changed its policy to require parents to check in over-the-counter medications in January 2006. Gilbert, Tempe Union and Florence have had similar policies for several years.
Others still have standing orders. Tempe and Kyrene elementary districts both have standing orders for limited types of medicines and require others to be checked in.
In Chandler, over-the-counter medicines are in the health office for students who have parent permission. The doctor also creates the order that allows immunizations to be delivered in each school's health offices, said health services director June Poston.