Your Substance Abuse. A Comprehensive Guide For Schools

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1 Your Substance Abuse Policy A Comprehensive Guide For Schools

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3 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide Table of Contents Page Introduction 5 Self Assessment Guide 9 1. Philosophical Statement/Definitions Community Involvement Communication Prevention/Education Prohibitions Enforcement Intervention Treatment Discipline Review/Revision 39 References 41 Appendix A: Resources 47 Appendix B: Workgroup Members 49 Appendix C: Public Opinion Survey 51 Appendix D: Literature Reviews 57 Appendix E: Youth Policy and Empowerment Project (YEPP): Findings and Recommendations 65 Appendix F: Maine Legislative Youth Advisory Council 69 Appendix G: Maine School Management Association: Sample Policy 73 Appendix H: A Note About Scare Tactics 75 Appendix I: Positive School Climate: Additional Information 77 3

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5 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide Introduction The School Substance Abuse Policy Guide was developed to assist schools in reviewing, revising, communicating, and enforcing a comprehensive substance abuse policy, according to the best available research recommendations. By law, all publicly funded Maine school units and districts who receive Safe and Drug Free School money must have a substance abuse policy. It is recommended that schools review and revise their policies at least once every two years. 1 To assist you in conducting this process, we have included a Self Assessment Checklist on pages 9 and 10 of this guide. The checklist provides a starting point for assessing your current policy in relation to the recommendations of the guide. This tool can help to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of your current policy. It can also identify components that may be missing. The guide is divided into ten chapters which describe the critical components of a comprehensive substance abuse policy. Each chapter provides research, practical suggestions, resources, and considerations to help you enhance your current school substance abuse policy. What ISN T in this guide? This guide is not a model substance abuse policy. Instead, the guide provides suggestions and considerations for communities to use in writing their own policies. There are several reasons for this: First, there simply is not enough research available to guide development of a model policy. Even though we have more information than ever about what works and what doesn t, there are still many unanswered questions. This guide presents an overview of available research as well as the gaps, so that communities can make decisions for themselves. Second, for a policy to work, it must have community support and ownership. This means that the process of developing the policy can be just as important as the policy itself. As a result, school policies will differ from one community to another. Finally, a policy is only as good as how well and consistently it is enforced. Again, this means that participation and involvement from those affected by the policy 1 Policy Review Checklist of Maine Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Program,

6 including students, parents, and school staff is a critical part of the policy development process. However, we did feel it was important to provide examples of policies that are currently being used by Maine schools. We created a website to allow for the posting and sharing of policies across the state. The website is: (In reviewing the sample policies posted on the site, please note that they are provided as general information only. The posting of these documents does not imply their endorsement or support by the Office of Substance Abuse. OSA does not review or monitor the content of these policies, and is not responsible for their content. The views and opinions expressed in the sample policies are those of the various schools and their officials, and are not necessarily those of OSA.) You will also find that this guide does not refer to tobacco use only to alcohol and other drug use. For recommendations regarding school tobacco free policy, please refer to the document, Creating and Maintaining a Tobacco-Free School Policy, by Partnership For a Tobacco Free Maine. It is included in the resource list at the end of this document (see Appendix A). You can visit for more information. How Was This Guide Developed? This guide was developed at the request of Maine s Substance Abuse Services Commission, which asked the Office of Substance Abuse (OSA) to develop a tool to help schools enhance their substance abuse policies. OSA partnered with Maine s Environmental Substance Abuse Prevention Center (MESAP) to develop the guide. To start the process, OSA and MESAP recruited stakeholders from across the state to join a workgroup. The workgroup met throughout the summer of 2007 to develop recommendations for the guide. The workgroup was comprised of community members, including youth, from a variety of settings and backgrounds. A list of these members can be found in Appendix B. To collect information about public opinion, an online, anonymous survey was distributed to various groups across the state. The survey was completed by 141 people, including teachers, prevention professionals, school administrators, and students. Survey results provided the workgroup with information about the public s general feelings about school substance abuse policies, and what they would like to see happen to improve those policies. The survey and results are included in Appendix C. The latest available research was carefully reviewed in order to develop recommendations which are evidence based (or shown to work), whenever possible. Unfortunately, 6

7 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide limitations in the research still leave us with many gaps in knowledge about what works and what doesn t. Research summaries are included in Appendix D. In addition, six documents were used as resources for this guide: 1. Maine s Best Practices in Bullying and Harassment Prevention: A Guide for Schools and Communities by Maine Governor s Children s Cabinet (see Appendix A); 2. Creating and Maintaining a Tobacco Free School Policy, by Partnership For a Tobacco Free Maine (see Appendix A); 3. Youth Empowerment and Policy Project s (YEPP) Findings and Recommendations on School Alcohol and Drug Policy 2 (see Appendix E); 4. YEPP s Findings and Recommendations on Athletic Policy 3 (see Appendix E); 5. A Report to the 123 rd Legislative First Regular Session: Report of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council Public Forums, January 15, (see Appendix F). 6. Maine Legislative Youth Advisory Council Issue Brief: Enforcing School Alcohol and Drug Policies, (see Appendix F). Conclusion There are many good reasons for schools in Maine to create and enforce a comprehensive school substance abuse policy. Some schools may already have such a policy in place, and will only require some updating. Other schools may have policies which would benefit from a few revisions, while others may need significant changes. Given the challenges in maintaining a drug free school, it s important to review and revise your school policy on an ongoing basis. This guide is intended to help communities and schools assess and, if necessary, strengthen their school policies so that students can learn in educational environments that are free from alcohol and other drugs. 2 The Youth Empowerment and Policy Project (YEPP) is a statewide group of youth focusing on program and policy issues regarding underage drinking. For more information, visit 3 ibid 4 A Report to the 123 rd Legislative First Regular Session: Report of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council Public Forums, January 15, ibid 7

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9 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide Self-Assessment for Elements of a School Substance Abuse Policy This tool will help you determine which aspects of your school s policy may be missing or may need to be modified. Rate each component by considering your current school substance abuse policy and how effective it is at achieving the goals listed below. Keep in mind that you do not need to address every component at once. The policy should be a living document, meaning that it is always being updated and improved. Determine which components in your policy could be improved and focus your efforts on those sections first. When those sections are completed, reassess the policy and work on other sections. Use the following chart to rate your current policy: 0: This element is not currently a part of our policy. 1: This element is mentioned in our policy, but has been ineffective. 2: This element is a part of our policy, and has been somewhat ineffective. 3: This element is a part of our policy, and needs slight changes to be effective. 4: This element is a part of our policy, and has been somewhat effective. 5: This element is a part of our policy, and has been very effective. KEY COMPONENT 1. PHILOSOPHICAL STATEMENT/DEFINITIONS (page 11) Our school has a substance abuse policy that: States a philosophy about substance use and abuse. States a rationale and the goals it aims to accomplish. States the population to which it applies. Has clearly written text that is easily understood by diverse audiences. Has clearly defined terms 2. COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT (page 13) The policy was developed with the support and involvement of the following stakeholders: School administrators, school board, school policy committee, teachers, and staff Students Parents, guardians, and families Community members Law enforcement and prevention and treatment professionals 3. COMMUNICATION (page 17) There are the following provisions for communication of the policy: A clear strategy for dissemination of the written policy. A process to address community questions and concerns while promoting the value of the policy. 4. PREVENTION/EDUCATION (page 19) There are prevention components in the policy: Commitment to implementing an evidence based substance abuse prevention curriculum. A plan to create and promote positive school climate: RATE 9

10 Mission and vision statements for the school are current Acceptable behaviors for students and adults are clearly stated Elements of positive school climate are delineated A plan to maintain positive school climate: Students and adults routinely evaluate school climate 5. PROHIBITIONS (page 23) Our policy prohibits substances and behaviors according to standards that are agreed upon by our community: The rules are consistent with state and local laws. The rules reflect community values. The rules are based on research. 6. ENFORCEMENT (page 25) There are consistent enforcement strategies in the policy: A clear system for monitoring, identifying, and reporting violations. Training and support for those expected to enforce rules. Provisions for due process 7. INTERVENTION (page 29) There are provisions for interventions in the policy: Assessment and screening of substance abuse treatment needs. A system to connect students with necessary services and programs (either in school or by referral), which may include: Student Assistance Teams Brief intervention for youth who are not in need of treatment Counseling for youth who are in need of treatment 8. TREATMENT (page 33) There are opportunities for treatment in the school policy: Substance abuse screenings and assessments are offered and encouraged by the school. School is connected with the Juvenile Treatment Network. School provides students with treatment services (either in school or by referral) 9. DISCIPLINE (page 35) Consequences are clearly stated and are reflective of community values: Consequences specifically address alcohol and other drug use by: Students Staff and other adults Consequences are based on research. Consequences reflect community values and are supported by the community. Consequences are age appropriate. Consequences are appropriate to the situation. Consequences and violations are clearly aligned. Criteria that can increase or reduce the consequences are clearly defined. 10. REVIEW/REVISION (page 39) There are procedures to periodically review and revise the policy: Timetable for periodic review and revision. Procedure to convene a policy committee. Process to review, evaluate, and revise the policy. 10

11 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide 1. Philosophical Statement/Definitions KEY PRINCIPLE: Our school has a comprehensive substance abuse policy This section states your school s philosophy about substance use and goals of the policy. It also defines and distinguishes all terms used in the policy, including prohibited substances and activities. A strong philosophical statement demonstrates your school s commitment to promoting healthy and safe environments for your students, staff, and community members. It should clearly outline the importance of substance abuse prevention for youth and include a rationale supported by current research. This creates a policy that is a positive preventive action rather than just a disciplinary tool. A comprehensive school substance abuse policy should include the following: A philosophy about substance use and abuse A rationale and the goals the policy aims to accomplish o Why is the policy being developed and implemented? The population(s) to which it applies o Who will be affected by the policy? Students? Staff? Visitors? 6 Clearly written text that will be easily understood by diverse audiences Clearly defined and distinguished terms o Which substances are prohibited, and what determines use and/or possession? Sample Philosophical Statement from the Maine School Management Association (MSMA) 5 (See Appendix G for MSMA full sample policy) The School Board and staff of the school unit support a safe and healthy learning environment for students which is free of the detrimental effects of drugs and alcohol. Accomplishing this goal requires a cooperative effort among school staff, students, parents, law enforcement and organizations concerned with the use of drugs and alcohol by schoolaged youth. In order to promote the safety, health and well being of students, the School Board endorses a three pronged approach to address the issue of drug and alcohol use: prevention/education, intervention and discipline. The Superintendent is responsible for developing appropriate administrative procedures, curricula and programs to implement this policy. 6 Maine School Management Association (MSMA). (2003) Drug and Alcohol Use By Students Sample Policy. 11

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13 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide This section of your policy describes the process of involving all stakeholders 7 in policy development. Allowing broad participation in developing or revising your policy is vital for ensuring that the policy accurately represents the values of your community. This will help to create community support and ownership for the policy itself. Individuals who are motivated to change substance abuse in their community are important to the success of this initiative. Use national research and statistics, combined with student survey data, like the Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey (MYDAUS), to build a case that this is an important issue. In planning the process for creating or revising your school s policy, consider how you will encourage broad community participation in the meetings of your School District s Policy Committee. School District Policy Committees are typically standing subcommittees of the School Board that meet regularly during the school year. These committees work to ensure that the school s policies are consistent and current with all state and federal laws. They also may propose new or amended policies that will be considered by the entire School Board. 2. Community Involvement KEY PRINCIPLE: The school policy was developed with the involvement of all stakeholders Who should be involved? Students including members of Student Council as well as a diverse representation of other students Parents/guardians and family members including members of PTO s and booster clubs, as well as a diverse representation of other parents School administrators and staffincluding teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, nurses, Safe and Drug Free School Coordinators, coaches/athletic directors, and co curricular advisors School Board members Advisory groups (sub committees of School Board, parent group, Safe and Drug Free Schools advisory group) Community members Treatment providers and prevention specialists Your local prevention coalition (e.g. Healthy Maine Partnerships, One Maine, Healthy Communities, and Drug Free Communities Coalitions) Law enforcement including police department or sheriff s office, school resource officers (SROs), juvenile community corrections officers (JCCOs), and Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) Regular users, nonusers, those considering use, and those affected by drugs or alcohol through family or friends 7 Stakeholder An individual or group with an interest in the success of an organization in delivering intended results (ICH Glossary, accessed 10/3/07) 13

14 Consider the following questions when setting up meetings: How will the Committee collect a broad representation of community feedback throughout the process? Are the Committee meetings held when key stakeholders are able to attend? Are the meetings widely advertised? Are meeting notes posted in a way that is accessible for the community to review and provide input? Gaining Support and Participation in Policy Development Below are some recommendations for including diverse stakeholder groups in the development of your school policy: Presenting to the School Board Adapted from Creating and Maintaining a Tobacco-Free School Policy, Partnership For a Tobacco Free Maine, 1999, p.13. Community: Disseminate your current school substance abuse policy, if one exists, through local media, websites, and listserves; ask the public for recommendations on how the policy can be improved. Hold a community forum to encourage teen/adult dialogue regarding substance abuse and the current school policy. Keep the public informed of all meetings of the School District s Policy Committee, which should be open to the public. School Personnel: Discuss and address concerns of school administrators and other staff, such as teachers, nurses, social workers, coaches, and cocurricular advisors. The School Board will make the ultimate decision about what is written into the substance abuse policy. Before meeting with the School Board, prepare by: 1. Learning their views about a substanceabuse policy Allow those who support the policy to act as advocates. Meet with opponents of the policy to best tailor the presentation to their needs. 2. Creating a strong presentation Involve students, teachers, staff, and administrators in the presentation. Include recent medical research to strengthen the policy. Address arguments against enacting a policy, including legal issues. Involve the School Board from the very beginning of the process. Request their support and cooperation in updating and ensuring consistent enforcement of the policy. 14

15 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide All students: Include students on the School District s Policy Committee and other advisory groups. Offer convenient meeting times and locations to ensure their availability and access. Create focus groups or subcommittees where students can voice their opinions and feel they are being heard. Involve a diverse group of youth in the policy development process. Families/Parents/Guardians: Inform parents/guardians of the School District s Policy Committee meetings. Invite parents/guardians to a meeting where voicing their ideas and opinions is strongly encouraged. Provide childcare or homework help during the meeting. Gather support from parent groups such as PTO s or booster clubs. Use random sampling, surveys or focus groups to research parental beliefs/concerns regarding substance abuse and youth. Law Enforcement: Involve law enforcement early in assessing and enhancing the policy. Create an effective working relationship by maintaining active communication. Be proactive in working out the protocols of when and how law enforcement will be involved in a given situation, before any situations arise. YEPP Recommendations 8 (See Appendix E for full document) Identify Collectively Identified Core Values to create and sustain a responsible school culture. Welcome the entire community, including students and parents, to be part of a discussion regarding value identification and its relation to drug and alcohol policy. Ensure that there is an active partnership between schools and parents; use public events as forums for students to discuss core values, community substance abuse norms, and conflicting messages about alcohol with parents and other students. Review the drug and alcohol policy disciplinary process with the community s identified core values and the youth recommendations in mind so that it can become more interventionist, inclusive, impartial, consistent and educational. 8 Youth Empowerment and Policy Project (YEPP) Summary of 2001 Findings and Recommendations: Substance Abuse Policy, 15

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17 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide 3. Communication KEY PRINCIPLE: There are provisions for universal communication of the school policy This section of your school policy outlines procedures for communicating the policy to students, school staff, parents and families, law enforcement, and visitors. Community knowledge and understanding are critical aspects of creating a successful and effective school substance abuse policy. Awareness promotes higher levels of compliance. 9 Include a plan that not only informs all community members of the new or revised policy, but also explains the reasoning behind it. In promoting the new school policy, explain why it is a positive change for the school and community in response to an important issue. Recommendations for disseminating the comprehensive policy: Provide copies of your Student Handbook in town offices, library, and other community spaces. Partner with local media to promote the new school policy. Display the policy on school and town websites, and include in local newsletters. Include a copy of the policy in your faculty handbook, or include it as a part of new employee orientation. Review the policy with all staff at the beginning of each school year, and with all students during orientation. Actively engage staff and students in understanding the policies. Announce policy changes over your school s PA system. Ensure that all parents receive the policy annually, and require that parents and students sign an agreement stating they have reviewed it. Designate time during a town meeting to present the policy to the public. Meeting face-to-face with community groups: YEPP Recommendation: Collaborate yearly with local law enforcement to improve the understanding of drug and alcohol laws within the school and community. Youth Empowerment and Policy Project Convene community forums where students speak about the policy. 9 Creating and Maintaining a Tobacco Free School Policy, Partnership For a Tobacco Free Maine, 1999, p

18 Host meetings to answer questions and describe benefits of the policy. Provide information and research supporting the strategies written in the policy. Ask for input from all community members and ensure that parents are proactively involved. Share the policy at classroom get togethers and parent teacher conferences. Special considerations for co-curricular policy: School policy should be clear, concise, and be an active part of the coaching and administrative process. Pledge documents should simply state the drug free expectations and consequences for infractions. Before signing, the coach and athletes should read and discuss the document. 10 Parents should understand and support the pledge documents. Disseminate the policy to coaches before the season begins, and ensure that they address the policy with their athletes and their athletes parents, verbally, as well as in written form. 10 Youth Empowerment and Policy Project (YEPP) Summary of 2001 Findings and Recommendations: Substance Abuse Policy, 18

19 Maine School Substance Abuse Policy Guide 4. Prevention/Education KEY PRINCIPLE: There are prevention components in the school policy This section of your policy describes your school s commitment to implementing a prevention curriculum, trainings, and activities to prevent substance abuse among members of your school community. In selecting prevention curricula and strategies to be used in your school, it is important to examine the evidence base behind them. Research in recent years has found that many wellintentioned programs are ineffective (Flay, B., 2000; Leatherdale, S. et al, 2005; O Donnell, J. et al, 1995). For example, programs that focus on increasing knowledge about alcohol and other drugs, their risks and dangers, are generally not successful in impacting students behavior. In addition, programs that include a scare tactic approach can sometimes do more harm than good (see A Note About Scare Tactics, Appendix H). For this reason, using an evidence based Classroom Curricula: What works? Reprinted from OJJDP Model Programs Guide, ention.htm... The nation's schools spend $125 million on drug abuse prevention curricula each year; however, many of these may not be effective in preventing substance abuse (Dusenbury and Falco, 1997). Drug and alcohol abuse prevention curricula have traditionally been based on pure information dissemination. Previous evaluations show that this didactic approach may be effective at transmitting information regarding drug and alcohol abuse; however, it is not effective at changing the underlying attitudes and behaviors (Sherman, 2000; Gottfredson, 1998; Botvin, Botvin and Ruchlin, 1998; Miller, 2001; Mendel, 2000; Sherman, et al., 1998; Rosenbaum and Hanson, 1998; Wyrick, et al., 2001). However, a review of the literature in the drug abuse prevention field suggests certain types of school based curricula can effectively reduce substance abuse in adolescence (Botvin and Botvin, 1992; Dusenbury and Falco, 1997; Perry and Kelder, 1992; Tobler and Stratton, 1997). Efficacious prevention curricula consist of several key elements. Curricula delivered in an interactive format with smaller groups of young people have been shown to produce strong and lasting positive results (Tobler and Stratton, 1997). Effective curricula gives students the tools to recognize internal pressures like stress or anxiety and external pressures like peer attitudes and advertising that may influence them to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Following this, another useful component is helping students develop and practice personal, social, and refusal skills in order to resisting these influences effectively (Dusenbury and Falco, 1997). Changing perceptions of friends' tolerance of drug use was a substantial mediator of program effects on drug use (MacKinnon, et al., 1991). 19

20 curriculum is an important element of a school s substance abuse prevention efforts. There are many successful prevention programs that have been studied and evaluated for use with students in a classroom setting. For a full list of evidence based prevention programs that have been reviewed and approved by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, please visit A few examples include: Project Towards No Drug Abuse (Project TND), a drug use prevention program for high school youth. The current version of the curriculum is designed to help students develop selfcontrol and communication skills, acquire resources that help them resist drug use, improve decision making strategies, and develop the motivation to not use drugs. It is packaged in minute interactive sessions to be taught by teachers or health educators. The TND curriculum was developed for high risk students in continuation or alternative high schools. It has also been tested among traditional high school students. Class Action and Project Northland, an alcohol use prevention curriculum series. Class Action (for grades 11 12) and Project Northland (for grades 6 8) are designed to delay the onset of alcohol use, reduce use among youths who have already tried alcohol, and limit the number of alcohol related problems experienced by young drinkers. Class Action draws upon the social influence theory of behavior change, using interactive, peer led sessions to explore the realworld legal and social consequences of substance abuse. The curriculum consists of 8 10 group sessions in which students divide into teams to research, prepare, and present mock civil cases involving hypothetical persons harmed as a result of underage drinking. Using a casebook along with audio taped affidavits and depositions, teens review relevant statutes and case law to build legal cases they then present to a jury of their peers. Case topics include drinking and driving, fetal alcohol syndrome, drinking and violence, date rape, drinking and vandalism, and school alcohol policies. Students also research community issues around alcohol use and become involved in local events to support community awareness of the problem of underage drinking. Class Action can be used as a booster session for the Project Northland series or as a standalone program. Project ALERT, a school based prevention program for middle or junior high school students that focuses on alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use. It seeks to prevent adolescent nonusers from experimenting with these drugs, and to prevent youths who are already experimenting from becoming more regular users or abusers. Based on the social influence model of prevention, the program is designed to help motivate young people to avoid using drugs and to teach them the skills they need to understand and resist pro drug social influences. The curriculum is comprised of 11 lessons in the first year and 3 lessons in the second year. Lessons involve small group activities, question and answer sessions, role playing, and the rehearsal of new skills to stimulate students' interest and participation. The content focuses on helping students understand the consequences of drug use, recognize the benefits of nonuse, build norms against use, and identify and resist pro drug pressures. 20

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