Substance Use Prevention and Education Policy
Massachusetts is one of the many states across the county with a growing epidemic of opioid addiction. Schools play an important role in educating youth about the dangers of substance abuse and in preventing substance use among students. This policy will be the district’s plan for enhancing the capacity to prevent and respond to issues of substance use within the context of other substance use initiatives.
- Provide students with education to help them understand legal, social, and physical consequences of alcohol and substance use to prevent use and abuse among students
- Provide opportunities for parents and guardians to learn of the warning signs of substance use/abuse and referral resources
- Teach students strategies to help them to make healthy choices around alcohol and substances
Gardner Public Schools strives to maintain a safe and supportive learning environment. A team approach consisting of district administrators, educators, support staff, students, families, the school resource officer, and local community stakeholders is utilized when implementing and utilizing this policy. Comprehensive substance use/abuse prevention programs are taught in the health classes and involve the use of multiple strategies that include education and training; social competency skill development; social norms with expectations for behavior; policies, procedures and protocols; and problem identification and referral services.
II Professional development
Gardner Public Schools will provide all school staff with tiered training to ensure that all staff is aware of the district policies, procedures, and protocols for prevention, intervention, and follow-up in regards to substance use and abuse.
All faculty and staff will be provided training on the early warning signs and behaviors that indicate a student may be experiencing substance use/abuse problems, and will be made aware of building-based referral systems and other protocols. Training of the verbal screening tool that Gardner Public Schools will be utilizing to screen student for substance use/abuse will be provided to all staff that will be administering the screening. Health teachers are responsible for implementing substance use prevention curricula and will have specific training and professional development on implementing evidence-based programs and effective strategies for preventing substance use.
III Access to Resources and Services
School staff can play a key role in identifying and referring students with substance use related problems and working with their families. School staff that suspects that a student is using substances should refer the student to the school nurse or guidance counselor. The school nurse and guidance counselor work as a team to assess the need for supportive counseling and/or referral services both within and outside the school department. Gardner Public Schools has established agreements with area mental health providers for collaboration to address student-specific issues, including interventions such as small groups, individual supports, and school re-entry plans.
IV Academic and non-academic strategies
Gardner Public Schools utilizes the evidence-based Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Framework and the National Health Education Standards for delivering appropriate and culturally competent health education to all students in grades 5-12. This includes evidence-based substance abuse prevention that is developmentally appropriate and demonstrate cultural competency. Evidence-based substance use/abuse prevention programs can be found on the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices searchable registry.
School nurses in collaboration with guidance and adjustment counselors will implement a verbal screening to one high school grade and one middle school grade annually as per DESE and DPH recommendations.
Supportive counseling and/or referrals will utilized for students that are identified to be at –risk for substance use problems. Gardner Public Schools contracts with school-based mental health professionals that can work directly with young people who are identified as being at risk.
The Gardner Public Schools Athletic Department provides student athletes and families with written educational material prior to the start of every new athletic season. The written information hand-outs (Substance Abuse Prevention Faces for Teens) and other educational resources are included on the district web site.
V Policies and Protocols
Gardner Public Schools has a policy prohibiting substance use on school grounds, and at school- sponsored or school- related activities whether on or off school grounds. The policy includes discipline and enforcement provisions, intervention provisions, and treatment opportunities for students and staff. Students are informed of the consequences for violating the policy. School staff discusses the policy annually with students.
Gardner Public Schools recognizes that families are essential partners in schools’ efforts to prevent substance use/abuse. Parental input helps identify and prioritize the needs of the school community. Parents /guardians are provided with information regarding the district’s and school’s substance use prevention and abuse education policies. The policy is posted on the district’s website and in student handbooks. Evidence-based prevention curricula contain an educational component specifically designed for parents/guardians and other actively involved family members.
LEGAL REFS: Mass. General Laws (c.71, s 96), 2016
Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH),
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)
[Revised: October 2017]