Bush vetoes school drug bill, signs second with similar language

Associated Press/May 27, 2005

Gov. Jeb Bush has vetoed one bill designed to make it harder for schools to make students take mood-altering drugs to treat mental disorders. But he signed a similar bill that he said took a more reasonable approach.

The main thrust of the bill that the governor signed is to tighten rules on when children in foster care can be put on such psychotropic drugs. But it also includes provisions dealing with public school enrollment.

The legislation that Bush vetoed would have barred schools from refusing to enroll students who refuse to take mood-altering drugs to treat mental disorders.

And before referring students for psychological evaluations, schools would have had to inform parents that behavior problems can result from physical conditions.

In his veto letter Thursday, Bush said he shares the concerns of some who think children are too frequently put on drugs and supports safeguards. But, he said, the parental notice section of the bill goes too far in trying to discourage parents from consenting to the drugs for their children.

"Ultimately, this bill could lead to a chilling effect on the evaluation and treatment of children with legitimate mental health needs, resulting in serious long-term consequences such as suicide or Baker Act intervention," Bush wrote.

The governor said the foster care legislation (SB 1090) took a more reasoned approach, in that it does not include language adding more requirements on what parents must be told by schools where medication is recommended.

The new law, which will take effect July 1, also requires the Department of Children & Families to get consent from the parents of any foster child in its care before giving the child psychotropic drugs.

If the parents' rights have been terminated, the agency would have to instead get a court order.

The vetoed measure (HB 209) was supported by the Church of Scientology and during the session actresses Kirstie Alley and Kelly Preston testified in support of it.

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