A legislative proposal regarding medications, schoolchildren and their communication with teachers inched closer to reality on Tuesday, awaiting final approval from lawmakers in the House and the governor's endorsement.

If HB42 makes it into law, mental health advocates vow to make the education of teachers their "mission," spreading the word that teachers can feel free to discuss the behavioral problems of their students with a parent.

"It really is a training issue," said Vicki Cottrell, head of Utah's chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

"This is not going to inhibit communication, by darn," Cottrell said. "I plan to work hard with the state Board of Education so teachers know they can still approach parents about behaviors."

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Michael Morley, R-Spanish Fork, puts into statute a rule already enforced by the state Office of Education that prohibits teachers from requiring parents to put their children on psychotropic medication as a result of remaining in the classroom.

Supporters say the message needs to be loud and clear that teachers should teach and not spend time "playing doctor."

"This bill is going to save children and is a step toward redressing the parental rights issue," said Sondra Lucas of the Citizen Commission on Human Rights.

Too often, Lucas said, teachers and others look to "popping pills" to address the problems of children.

But Sen. Greg Bell, R-Farmington, continued to struggle with what he says is not good law.

"I have a son who struggled with attention deficit disorder," he said, adding that he dealt with cooperative and uncooperative teachers over the years. "I owe a debt to Mrs. Deon of Knowlton sixth grade for working with my son."

Bell and others say the measure will only add confusion. But Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, the senate sponsor, argued its practical effect is simple.

"This is not good law if you believe teachers should be recommending medication for a child," he said.

Colleagues agreed, voting to approve the measure by a 17-8 margin.


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