ST. PAUL (AP) -- Last year, 11-year-old Taylor Orr's asthma attack spiraled out of control and landed her in the doctor's office because she couldn't reach her inhaler soon enough.
Orr was sitting in her social studies class and her inhaler was in the nurse's office -- five flights of stairs below. As her chest grew tight and it hurt to talk, Orr said she didn't want to interrupt the class to get permission to leave.
But starting Wednesday, one of several new education laws will take effect and allow elementary and secondary students to take their inhalers with them to class.
Now when Orr, of Prior Lake, starts the sixth grade in a few weeks, she said: "It will be a lot easier and I won't get sick as often."
Up until now, school districts made their own policies on inhaler use.
According to the American Lung Association, more than 40 percent of Minnesota schools previously did not allow students to take their inhalers with them to class. Most of those schools chose to keep the medicine locked in the school nurses office.
Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, the Republican from Andover who sponsored the measure, said the nurses' office policy was "an unintended consequence" of schools' "blanket approach of no tolerance for drugs."
One in five families in Minnesota is affected by asthma and 26 million Americans suffer from the disease, according to the American Lung Association.
On Wednesday, Minnesota joins at least 10 other states that have laws allowing students to carry their inhalers to class.
Tingelstad said she hopes the law will also educate children and parents about proper inhaler use. In order to carry it with them, the students must go through a short training session with the school nurse.
She said that could help prevent potentially fatal mistakes, such as using another person's inhaler without realizing that it is a different prescription. Last year, a child in Minnesota died from an overdose of his friend's inhaler medicine during an asthma attack.
Other education laws also take effect Wednesday, including a provision allowing teachers to dismiss disruptive students from class. Previously, teachers and administrators had to cut their way through red tape to get a student removed from class -- then worry about a lawsuit.
"A lot of kids are not showing respect to their teachers and they're getting away with it," said Rep. Jeff Johnson, R-Plymouth.
A recent survey in Minneapolis public schools showed that 51 percent of elementary students are often kept from doing their work by students who misbehave, and 57 percent of secondary students said students in their school did not show respect for teachers.
Chuck Anderson, a counselor at Irondale High School in New Brighton, said students can sometimes be "confrontational, oppositional and defiant" and giving teachers clear-cut authority to take control of the classroom will let them get back to teaching.
Anderson said there is a growing sense among students that each of them have rights, but not always acknowledgment of the responsibilities that come with that.
"We try to be as proactive as possible in maintaining respect for students," Anderson said. "Hopefully we can diffuse situations like this before they get to this point, sometimes we can't."
Another measure taking effect Wednesday requires police to notify school districts when students are caught possessing drug paraphernalia. This fine tunes an information-sharing law that requires police to notify school district and parents about drug and alcohol use.
Sen. Randy Kelly, DFL-St. Paul, said the original information-sharing law, passed in the 1980s, was a national model.
"When we look at drop in crime today, one of reasons for that is the significant amount of work done over last several years in programs such as this," he said.
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