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As students and teachers returned to the classroom this week after winter break, new laws are going into effect that will impact schools across the state. One law is aimed at the care of student with illnesses in schools.
Ashley's Law allows a school district or school to authorize and train a school nurse, school administrator, or permit a parent or legal guardian to administer a marijuana-infused medical product to a student on school grounds or property, if the student and parent/guardian have been issued registry identification cards under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.
Though Oswego School District officials have confirmed that none of the district's more than 17,500 students currently need to use medical marijuana for treatment of cancer or other medical conditions, they are examining how Ashley's Law would be applied in the district's 22 schools.
Though the state has legalized adult use marijuana, it remains an illegal substance under federal law.
Executive Director of District Student Services Valerie Patterson confirmed that Director of Health Services Debbie Miller has received training from the Illinois State Board of Education on the law.
"We hope this training will answer concerns about the federal laws and how to ensure that the school district is not at any potential risk of losing federal funds due to the implementation of this law," Patterson said.
When it comes to implementing the law in the district, each school has a building nurse assigned to the school on a daily basis, Patterson explained. If the nurse is absent, a substitute nurse would be assigned for the day, to make sure that each building has daily coverage.
In the unlikely event that no nurse is available to cover the school, an administrator could oversee the administration of the medication. This would be allowed by law, Patterson said, but is contingent on final administrative procedures that align to both the Board of Education's policies and state and federal laws that protect funding.
Patterson added that district officials are examining sample administrative procedures and forms as a starting point, though the pieces are formalized by committee and the action of the Board of Education.
"The Board of Education has to make the actions to change or update policy once administration gathers information," Patterson explained, adding that after the district gathers all pertinent information, a legal review would then be conducted by the district's attorney, and recommendations would be made to the board by district administrators.
Former Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Ashley’s Law in August of 2018 after it was passed by the General Assembly.
The law is named for Ashley Surin of Schaumburg and a cancer patient who had qualified for a medical marijuana ID card but had been barred from bringing marijuana medications to her school.
Ashley's Law allows children like Surin who have medical marijuana IDs to take their medications at school under the supervision of a parent, guardian or caretaker. The medication must be in the form of a patch, pump or an edible.