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Q & A: Teachers are educators, not health-care providers

February 26, 2019 Dennis Theobald, ATA Executive Secretary

Question: I have been asked to administer medication to one of my students. I recall reading that teachers should not be doing so. Is that correct or can I administer student medication?

Answer: Increasingly, parents have asked schools to assume noninstructional activities such as dispensing medication, supervising students taking their own medication(s), monitoring blood sugar levels, catheterizing students and a variety of other services.

Questions have arisen as to whether these activities are educational responsibilities or medical functions and whether schools should take them on, given the associated liability. Schools should generally refuse to assume such responsibilities unless a student’s parents can establish that their request for these medical services meets the necessary criteria.

From a liability perspective, a person who performs a medical service or administers/supervises medication must provide “dedicated service.” This means that the person(s) providing such care must not have any other duties or possible distractions. By definition, teachers and principals cannot meet this standard. Such medical services are typically assigned to support staff. Assigned staff must receive training in the administering of the care they are delivering.

The Association’s view is that teachers are educators, not health care providers. While the school district may have an obligation to provide medical services to some students, those undertakings should be not be assigned to teachers. The Association opposes any teacher involvement in providing medication or medical services to students, as these are not instructional duties, and such involvement may create a situation where teachers may assume unnecessary liability. 

While the school district may have an obligation to provide medical services to some students, those undertakings should be not be assigned to teachers.



Where teachers are assigned such duties, they need to protect themselves by protesting the assignment. Section 8 of the Code of Professional Conduct requires teachers to protest the assignment of duties for which they are not qualified or conditions that make it difficult to render professional service. For this reason, coupled with concerns about the assumption of liability, a protest letter is necessary. Such protests should be in writing, should describe the concern with the inability to meet the legal standard of providing “dedicated service” and should state that the teacher is unwilling to accept any personal or professional liability that might ensue should a student be harmed. Teachers should contact Member Services for assistance in drafting the letter.

Alberta Education recently released new guidelines for supporting students with type 1 diabetes in schools. The guidelines provide guidance, information and resources on how schools and/or school authorities, parents/guardians, health care professionals and community service providers can work together to support students with type 1 diabetes while they are in school. It is clear that the school needs to ­develop and implement a plan to assist the students, but teachers are not responsible for the plan.

If you are unsure of your responsibilities regarding medication, or if you feel that you are required to undertake noninstructional duties regarding ­administering medication, please contact Member Services for assistance. ❚

Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at

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