Teach­ers gave out pills on ex­cur­sion

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - LINDA SILMALIS CHIEF RE­PORTER

NO­BODY en­joys long-haul flights with children but teach­ers tak­ing two classes on an ex­cur­sion to Italy are un­der fire for hand­ing out sleepin­duc­ing an­ti­his­tamines to teens.

In a move that has alarmed some par­ents, three stu­dents from Free­man Catholic Col­lege in Bon­nyrigg Heights are un­der­stood to have been given over-the-counter Phen­er­gan pills.

The school in­sists that writ­ten parental per­mis­sion was given for stu­dents to re­ceive ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­cal treat­ment and giv­ing the drug did not breach guide­lines or poli­cies.

While Phen­er­gan’s pri­mary use is to counter an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion, some doc­tors rec­om­mend us­ing the drug to help children sleep.

How­ever, the prac­tice re­mains con­tro­ver­sial with oth­ers in the med­i­cal com­mu­nity warn­ing against its use as a seda­tive in­stead of an an­ti­his­tamine.

On­line moth­ers’ groups reg­u­larly hold fierce de­bates on its use to help children sleep.

Some schools keep Phen­er­gan as part of the first aid and emer­gency re­sponse to in­ci­dents such as ana­phy­lac­tic shock from an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion.

One par­ent, who did not want to be iden­ti­fied, ini­tially claimed stu­dents had been given “sleep­ing pills” be­fore learn­ing it was Phen­er­gan. An­other par­ent, who also re­quested anonymity, said teach­ers should not be giv­ing seda­tives to teenagers.

“Teach­ers should be calm­ing stu­dents down by talk­ing to them, ad­dress­ing their fears, not teach­ing them to re­sort to med­i­ca­tion,” the par­ent said.

Eight teach­ers ac­com­pa­nied the Year 10 his­tory and Year 12 Ital­ian lan­guage class stu­dents on the 15day trip to Rome, Florence and Pom­peii.

A school spokesman con­firmed three stu­dents were given “med­i­cal as­sis­tance” for a “range of anx­i­etyre­lated is­sues”.

Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Syd­ney Catholic Schools, Dr Dan White, said writ­ten parental per­mis­sion was given for stu­dents to re­ceive ap­pro­pri­ate med­i­cal treat­ment while on the ex­cur­sion.

Par­ents had also re­ceived brief­ings prior to the ex­cur­sion.

Dr White said no breach of any man­dated guide­lines had oc­curred, with teach­ers fol­low­ing all rel­e­vant school poli­cies.

He said he was dis­ap­pointed the con­cerned par­ents had not taken their com­plaints di­rectly to the school.

“This is es­pe­cially dis­ap­point­ing when teach­ers go over and above to en­sure that stu­dents are given the op­por­tu­nity to ac­cess the cur­ricu­lum in such an en­rich­ing way through an over­seas ex­cur­sion,” he said.

“Our teach­ers are com­mit­ted to the well­be­ing of our stu­dents and take their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of act­ing in loco par­en­tis very se­ri­ously.

“The pro­vi­sion of over-the-counter med­i­ca­tion to as­sist children and young peo­ple who are ill or dis­tressed, are the types of de­ci­sions par­ents make each and every day.”

Free­man Catholic Col­lege.

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