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Schools & Child Care

Addressing drugs and alcohol in schools

Addressing Drugs and Alcohol in Schools

Students spend a large part of their day at school. Education can have a role in delaying onset of first use by providing students with credible information about drugs and alcohol and building skills to manage the many influences placed on young people. Research demonstrates delayed onset of drug and alcohol use is vital to healthy brain development and good mental health. The following action plan ideas are provided to help with addressing drugs and alcohol at school. Include a selection of activities from each of the five sections below, or brainstorm ideas of your own:

  • Ensure that staff, students and families are aware of policies and/or codes of conduct related to substance use.
  • When selecting resources to support instruction, choose resources (e.g. books (i.e. Lunch with Lenin), websites, videos, etc.) that reinforce healthy decision making concepts related to substance use.
  • Plan and participate in activities to raise awareness about substance use and addictions, such as: National Addictions Awareness Week (3rd week of November), National Youth Week (May 1-7), or World No Tobacco Day (May 31).
  • Host a variety of school spirit and character education activities to promote school connectedness.
  • Take an asset-building approach to promote thriving behaviours and reduce risk-taking behaviours (such as substance use) among students, following the Developmental Assets framework.
  • Complete the online free 30 hour training The Brain Certification from Alberta Family Wellness Initiative for a fulsome understanding of the developing brain and how to promote resilience and mental wellbeing in children and youth.
  • Establish a student-led committee to plan and organize school-wide initiatives.
  • Help students build skills to recognize alcohol/substance-related influences and develop healthy decision-making and refusal skills (e.g. role play various scenarios).
  • Create opportunities for peer-mentoring (such as Link Crew) and/or peer-to-peer teaching. Consider developing connections between secondary schools and elementary feeder schools.
  • Facilitate student learning about local community supports and services, and involve students in planning creative approaches for sharing this information with the broader school community.
  • Start a student support group to raise awareness about the risks of impaired driving, such as Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID) or Students Against Destructive Driving (SADD).
  • Promote positive mental health; create opportunities during the school day to support students and staff to develop resilience and cope with stress in healthy ways.
  • Encourage and organize activities that promote healthy living, including: student running programs, intramurals, and clubs that appeal to a variety of interests.
  • Raise awareness about the risks of substance use and community supports for youth and families, through newsletter inserts, displays, bulletin boards, school website, etc. For example, you could request to borrow the health unit’s “Party Fouls” display for secondary schools.
  • Create a resource section in the library with information for students, staff and parents.
  • Raise staff awareness and coordinate increased supervision of areas that may present a higher risk for substance use.
  • Offer a parent education night to teach strategies for supporting youth with healthy decision making (e.g.Triple P parenting program).
  • Organize events to raise awareness within your school community such as: a Mental Health Week walk, a smoke free movie night, R.A.C.E. Against Drugs (Simcoe County – Gr. 5) / R.A.D. (Muskoka – Gr. 4/5), or a Truth and Consequences conference.
  • Host school assemblies for students, staff and families and invite guest speakers; ensure to follow current COVID-19 guidance for schools.
  • Enlist the support of your Healthy Schools program, and other community partners (such as police, community mental health agencies, etc.) in planning and implementing Healthy Schools initiatives.
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