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Schools & Child Care

Drugs and Alcohol

The most effective way for school communities to ensure the best possible outcomes in support of children and youth, is to use a comprehensive approach.  Comprehensive School Health is an internationally recognized framework. The Ontario Ministry of Education supports this comprehensive approach with Foundations for a Healthy School which suggests that schools implement activities under the following five components in order to effectively address a health-related topic, (e.g. drug and alcohol use):

Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Offering a wide range of opportunities for students to learn, practice and promote positive and healthy behaviours. Visit our Educators pages for more information, lesson plans, curriculum supports and resources to support classroom teaching related to Drugs and Alcohol:

  • For Elementary Educators
  • For Secondary Educators
  • To support staff development, consider workshops, conferences or inviting field experts to speak at a professional development day about this topic.  (i.e. on signs of alcohol/substance use and how to respond).

School and Classroom Leadership

School and classroom leadership focuses on creating a positive classroom and school environment by identifying shared goals and priorities that are responsive to the needs of the school community.

The following is an example of a strategy that could assist your school in promoting school and classroom leadership:

  • Participating in activities for National Addictions Awareness Week (3rd week of November), National Youth Week (May 1-7) and school spirit activities.

Student Engagement

Student engagement refers to the extent to which students identify with and value their learning; feel a sense of belonging at school; and are informed about, engaged with and empowered to participate in and lead academic and non-academic activities.

The following are examples of strategies that could assist your school in engaging students:

  • Participating in Grade 7/8 peer mentoring by high school students, engage students in creating messages.

Social and Physical Environments

Healthy, safe and caring social and physical environments support learning and contribute to the positive cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development of students.

The following are examples of strategies that could assist you in promoting supportive social and physical environments at your school: 

  • Raise awareness about the risks of substance use amongst youth, and about community supports for youth and families through: newsletter inserts, displays, bulletin boards, school website, etc.
  • Start a student support group, (e.g. OSAID, SADD) to raise awareness about the risks of impaired driving.
  • Increase staff awareness about, and coordinate increased supervision of, areas that may present a higher risk for substance use. 
  • Create a resource section in the library with information for students, staff and parents about youth and alcohol/drugs.
  • Build in healthy opportunities for recreation daily to support students and staff with stress and coping.

Home, School and Community Partnerships

Home, school and community partnerships engage parents, extended family, school staff, child care and family support programs and community groups in a mutually beneficial way to support, enhance and promote opportunities for learning and well-being. Community partners provide consultation, resources and services to support staff, students, and families. 

The following are examples of strategies that could assist you in promoting home, school and community partnerships at your school:

Additional Resources

  • The Art of Motivation is a tool that teachers can use to communicate with students about challenging issues, to help students explore making positive changes to their behaviour, including their use of alcohol, drugs, and substance abuse. (Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia). 
  • Online Learning for the Effects of Cannabis Use during Adolescence (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse) – This online learning module brings together the best, most current research and identifies what we know, what we don’t know and what is emerging on the issue of youth cannabis use.
  • Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) – Conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) every two years, with students from Grades 7 to 12.
  • What’s With Weed - Interactive Website for Youth – Uses a harm reduction approach to help youth recognize and reduce problematic marijuana use. While the content does include and support abstinence in the range of strategies, it does not demand it. Instead the site is designed following a stages-of-change model that encourages users who haven’t previously thought about, or are starting to think about, quitting their use of marijuana to move towards action to avoid, reduce or prevent problematic marijuana use. This site is a Canadian educational resource developed with young people in Ontario who are both marijuana users and non-users, in partnership with drug education specialists, drug treatment counselors and researchers with funding from Health Canada.

Also, be sure to visit the Drugs and Alcohol section of the health unit’s website for more information related to alcohol, marijuana, prescription and other drugs.

Your school may identify additional strategies that are the best fit for your school community.

Have additional questions?

Contact Health Connection:  705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 or email.

Are you concerned about a student and/or would like additional information related to counseling or community supports? Find out where to get help.

If you would like assistance in developing an action plan for drugs or alcohol, contact your SMDHU Healthy Schools public health nurse through Health Connection by calling 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.

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