The NASBE State School Health Policy Database is a comprehensive set of laws and policies from 50 states on more than 40 school health topics. Originally begun in 1998, and maintained with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the policy database is designed to supplement information contained in CDC's School Health Policies and Programs Study (SHPPS).

The database contains brief descriptions of laws, legal codes, rules, regulations, administrative orders, mandates, standards, resolutions, and other written means of exercising authority. While authoritative binding policies are the primary focus of the database, it also includes guidance documents and other non-binding materials that provide a more detailed picture of a state's school health policies and activities. Most of the collected laws and policies govern the education system, but health department, transportation, and social services policies are also included as appropriate. Hyperlinks to the full written policies are provided whenever possible.

This database is intended to facilitate the sharing of school health improvement strategies and policy language across states. It is also designed to help state, district, and school practitioners access their state's school health policies in one convenient location. A third purpose is to assist researchers and policy evaluators with tracking changes in policies across the nation.

What is Not Included

NASBE is continually updating the database with new and revised laws and policies. To help us keep this information as current and accurate as possible, users are strongly encouraged to contact us with any corrections or updates.

This database does not contain case law, legal opinions, or data on the implementation of state laws or policies. For a selected list of other state-level information databases, click the Other Databases tab. Unfortunately, there does not yet exist a comparable policy database covering the nation's local school districts. Users looking for local-level information should visit the websites of their state education agency or state school boards association.

The policies contained in the database are organized into six broad categories:

     • Curriculum and Instruction
     • Staff
     • Health Promoting Environment
     • Student Services
     • Accommodation
     • Coordination/Implementation

Using the Database

Database contents can be accessed three ways:

  1. By state: Click the View by State tab and select the desired state from the map, or the state's name below the map, to view all of its school health-related laws and policies across all categories, topics, and subtopics in the database.
  2. By topic: Click the View by Topic tab and select a topic name to view all 50 states' laws and policies on that topic, including its subordinate subtopics. For example, selecting "Health Education" will bring up every state's policies relating to school health education with associated subtopics of mandates, curriculum, and assessment.
  3. By keyword: Click the Search tab to view policies that contain a keyword or phrase. Searches may be narrowed by state, category and/or topic.

Staff Picks

One of the most frequent questions from users is, "Which states have exemplary policies on a given topic?" To provide some guidance, the NASBE Center for Safe and Healthy Schools has highlighted selected policies that other states might want to consider using as models. These may be viewed by clicking the Staff Picks tab.

"Staff Picks" offer policy concepts, strategies, and phrases that policy developers might consider adapting, but always keep in mind that each state's education governance structure, needs, circumstances, and policy traditions are different. Some states have few state-level policies; others have many. Some policies are general; others are very detailed. Effective policymaking is not accomplished through a "one type fits all" approach. Every policy needs to be custom tailored to fit its unique context.

Policy Terms

The term "policy" is generic and can refer to many types of policy tools used by authoritative governing bodies such as state legislatures and state boards of education to effect change. For example, state boards can choose to adopt regulations that have the force of law, can merely express advisory guidance, or can influence local practice through funding incentives. Institutions and traditions that are unique to a given place -"this is how we do things around here"- greatly influence the type of policy instrument used.

"Laws" or "statutes" are adopted by state legislatures and compiled into "codes." Subdivisions might be known as "titles", "chapters", and "sections." Laws take precedence over every other type of policy and are subject to the full weight of state enforcement via the criminal or civil justice systems.

"Rules", "regulations", "administrative orders", "certification requirements", "licensure requirements", and similar terms usually refer to policies that are adopted by state boards or state department heads under authority granted by the state legislature. They often carry the force of law within the education system.

In the education system, "standards" refer to academic concepts and skills that students should know and be able to do. "Curriculum frameworks" outline general instructional concepts rather than specific lesson plans. In some states standards and frameworks are mandatory and are treated like regulations, but in most states they are recommendations intended to guide the content of local academic programs. The selection of a particular curriculum that consists of specific lessons for students is nearly always left up to a local school district, school, or individual teacher.

"Resolutions", "position statements", "non-regulatory guidance", "guidelines", "legal advisories", "interagency agreements", "bylaws," and "procedures" are advisory in nature, express opinions, or provide clarification on implementing policies and programs. They can originate from state legislatures, state boards of education, state education administrators, or others in positions of authority.

The Urban Institute provides a useful online Policy Jargon Decoder, a glossary of terms commonly used in policy debates. Similarly, the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) offers a Glossary of Education Terms and Acronyms.

Comparing State Policies

It is a challenge to directly compare policies among states because state education systems are far from uniform. Whether a given policy is most appropriate at the state, regional, tribal, school district, or school level depends heavily on jurisdictional traditions, governance structures, and political contexts as well as the particular topic. For example, 34 states currently mandate HIV prevention education. However, a state that does not explicitly mandate HIV education might have a strong tradition of "local control" and does not mandate any kind of instruction. Such a state might in fact be doing all it can to encourage effective instruction through the use of model policies, curriculum guidance, staff development programs, and other voluntary incentives. Lack of a policy does not mean lack of attention.

Directly comparing states can also be a challenge because the same terms can mean different things and carry different degrees of authority from one state to another. Even within a state, terms like "rule," "regulation," and "administrator order" might be used inconsistently or interchangeably.

NASBE hopes that this resource will be effectively used as intended. We stand ready to help states adopt, expand, and improve their school health policies.

Adapted from Chapter B: The Art of Policymaking of NASBE's Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn: A School Health Policy Guide.

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