ERIC Identifier: ED355651
Publication Date: 1993-04-00
Author: Gaustad, Joan
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Substance Abuse Policy. ERIC Digest, Number 80.
Substance abuse affects American children of all economic backgrounds in
every geographic area. Research has linked drug use to a decline in academic
performance, to truancy and dropping out, and to crime and misconduct. All too
often, illegal substances are used and distributed on school property.
Students whose schools lack clear alcohol and drug policies are more likely
to use or experiment with chemical substances. While good policy alone can't
reduce substance abuse, it is the indispensable foundation for an effective
effort against substance abuse.
WHY IS SUBSTANCE-ABUSE POLICY IMPORTANT?
policy makes a public statement that educators are aware of and concerned about
the problem. Policy can express the intent and beliefs of school and community
and their resolve to work toward a solution. It establishes long-range goals and
sets an overall tone that will support specific actions.
A districtwide policy helps maintain consistency in prevention and
intervention efforts and promotes fair, uniform treatment of students at
different schools. It guides the development of site-specific procedures and
ensures program continuity if a key building administrator should depart. In
addition, recent legislation requires schools to possess comprehensive
substance-abuse prevention policies and programs in order to be eligible for
WHAT SHOULD A COMPREHENSIVE SUBSTANCE-ABUSE POLICY
A policy should begin with a PHILOSOPHICAL STATEMENT articulating
the district's position regarding substance use (PrevNet 1990). According to
education consultant Judy Graves, an antidrug stance isn't enough. Policy-makers
should also consider: "What is it we believe in as a school community and what
do we want to promote?" Drug abuse should be seen in context, as an obstacle
that hinders the achievement of positive goals (telephone interview, February
The DISCIPLINE code should specify what constitutes a drug offense,
explicitly defining prohibited substances and behavior. Policy should establish
the extent of school jurisdiction. For example, the code can state that
prohibitions also apply to school-sponsored events that take place off campus,
or that any substance use that would impair student functioning in school is
prohibited. Types of violation should be distinguished and consequences of
varying severity set depending on the type and frequency of violations.
Provision should also be made for enabling suspended or expelled students to
continue their studies. The Office of Educational Research and Improvement
(1991) supports notifying parents of all drug offenses and stresses the
importance of linking punishment to corrective action such as referral for
treatment and counseling.
Here discipline blurs into INTERVENTION. A district should either provide
student and employee assistance programs or refer offenders to outside agencies.
Nonpunitive help should be made available for students and staff who request it,
including nonusers affected by friends' or family members' substance abuse.
Aftercare should be provided for those in recovery.
A policy should state desired PREVENTION goals and the types of preventive
efforts the district will support. A specific prevention curriculum may be
authorized. Policy should mandate drug awareness and prevention training for ALL
staff, from administrators to cooks (OERI).
Comprehensive regulations and procedures must support policies in all three
areas. The roles and responsibilities of school personnel in various situations
must be clearly defined. Procedures are needed for reporting incidents and
suspected use, for notifying parents, for responding to drug-related
emergencies, and for coordinating with community agencies and the police.
HOW SHOULD A SUBSTANCE-ABUSE POLICY BE DEVELOPED?
alone can't defeat a problem as complex and socially deep-rooted as substance
abuse. The whole-hearted support of parents, staff, and community is critical to
success. Thus involving all parties in policy development is an "essential
investment of time and energy" (Linn-Benton [Oregon] Education Service District
and ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management 1991). The process should
include teachers, administrators, classified staff, parents, and students, as
well as representatives of law enforcement and juvenile justice agencies,
treatment programs, businesses, and community organizations.
According to Colker and Flatter (undated), an understanding of chemical
dependency is a prerequisite to effective policy development. Assessing the
extent of substance abuse within the district is another vital preliminary step;
to be maximally effective, policy must be tailored to local needs. Effective
policy-makers also anticipate potential problems that may develop in the future.
Once a general policy outline has been created, previous policies should be
examined to see how well they address current needs. Colker and Flatter suggest
asking administrators to describe current policies without referring to
documents. Poorly remembered points may have been badly written and require
revision. Next, resources must be examined to see whether they are sufficient to
support the desired policy.
The policy-development process is complex, time-consuming, and sometimes
tedious and emotionally draining. Districts should anticipate the human factors
involved and allow from nine months to a year for completion. The Linn-Benton
ESD and ERIC/CEM suggest specific procedural steps to streamline the process and
ease pressure on participants.
HOW SHOULD POLICY BE COMMUNICATED?
Ongoing communication is
more effective than sporadic, one-shot policy messages for staff, students,
parents, and other citizens.
Distribute the policy in writing, discuss it verbally, and review it
periodically. Many schools require students and parents to state in writing that
they have read and understand the school policy handbook. At Miami's W. R.
Thomas High School, staff go over substance abuse and other school policies with
each new student admitted in mid-year (Ficklen 1990). Palatine, Illinois, high
school athletes must read and sign a code of conduct promising to remain drug
free, and must attend a drug-awareness meeting with their parents at the start
of the season (OERI).
Presenting substance abuse policy along with other issues at classroom
get-togethers for parents is more effective than relying on special
substance-abuse events. Policy information can also be shared at parent-teacher
Administrators should reach out to the community personally and via local
media. School staff can speak to civic, service, and religious groups. School
board members can transmit information to organizations to which they belong.
Colker and Flatter suggest that administrators regard policy as "a product to
be marketed" and urge them to be persistent and creative in their efforts. For
example, sponsor school information booths at shopping centers. Ask large
employers to distribute information via employee newsletters, and the utility
company to enclose information with bills. Ask owners of stores that sell
alcohol and tobacco, especially those near schools, to ensure their employees
obey laws against selling to minors.
WHAT LEGAL ISSUES SHOULD BE CONSIDERED?
balance their obligation to provide a safe academic environment against
protecting students' privacy and right to due process. Recognizing that the
first takes priority over the second, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed school
officials considerable discretion to act (Lewis and others 1992).
SEARCH AND SEIZURE procedures must meet a "reasonableness standard." There
must be reasonable suspicion that a student has violated school policy, and the
intrusiveness of the search must be reasonable given the student's age and the
seriousness of the suspected violation. Some particularly intrusive procedures
such as drug-sniffing dogs, strip-searches, and urinalysis have not yet been
addressed by the Supreme Court (Lewis and others). Schools should also be aware
that they are legally responsible for the cost of drug-testing procedures they
To ensure DUE PROCESS, students facing expulsion or a suspension of ten days
or more must be given a hearing. Hearing procedures may vary according to the
severity of the sanction. The Department of Education summarizes hearing
guidelines established to date by federal courts.
Clear, well-publicized policies help protect schools against legal
challenges. For example, courts have upheld unannounced locker searches when
policy specified that lockers are school property, not private, and subject to
search. Prohibiting drug "look-alikes" avoids the problem of proving the
composition of confiscated substances (Frels and others 1990). Establishing an
unbroken "chain of custody" from the moment of seizure is essential for evidence
that may be used in a criminal trial. Behavior or activities that prompted a
search should be scrupulously documented. Schools must also comply with laws
concerning confidentiality of education records when aiding law-enforcement
After a district consults an attorney to ensure that its substance-abuse
policies conform to federal, state, and local laws, it can assure staff they
need not fear liability for their antidrug actions. School officials are
generally not personally liable for actions taken in good faith, as long as
those actions are reasonable, evenhanded, and lawful (U.S. Department of
California State Department of Education. NOT
SCHOOLS ALONE: GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES TO PREVENT THE USE OF TOBACCO, ALCOHOL, AND OTHER DRUGS AMONG CHILDREN AND YOUTH. Sacramento, California: 1991. 40 pages. ED 333 257.
Colker, Laura J., and Charles H. Flatter. DRUG-FREE SCHOOLS AND CHILDREN: A
PRIMER FOR SCHOOL POLICYMAKERS. Rockville, Maryland: American Council for Drug
Drug Enforcement Administration. SCHOOL DRUG ABUSE POLICY DEVELOPMENT GUIDE
FOR SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY OFFICIALS. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of
Ficklen, Ellen. "Detours on the Road to Drugs." THE AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD
JOURNAL 177, 2 (February 1990): 19-22. EJ 402 372.
Frels, Kelly, and others. SCHOOL DISCIPLINE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES: A
PRACTICAL GUIDE. REVISED EDITION. Alexandria, Virginia: National School Boards
Association, April 1990. 49 pages. ED 322 597.
Lewis, John F., and others. A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR ADMINISTRATORS AND EDUCATORS FOR COMBATTING DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE, SECOND EDITION. Topeka, Kansas: National Organization on Legal Problems of Education, 1992. 48 pages.
Linn-Benton Education Service District and ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational
Management. AT-RISK YOUTH IN CRISIS, VOLUME 4: SUBSTANCE ABUSE. Eugene, Oregon:
ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, 1991. 64 pages. ED 332 308.
Office of Educational Research and Improvement. SUCCESS STORIES FROM DRUG-FREE SCHOOLS: A GUIDE FOR EDUCATORS, PARENTS, AND POLICYMAKERS. Washington, D. C.: author, 1991. 127 pages. ED 343 041.
PrevNet. GUIDELINES FOR DEVELOPING COMPREHENSIVE ALCOHOL, TOBACCO, AND OTHER DRUG POLICIES, REGULATIONS AND PROCEDURES. Sacramento, California: Sacramento County Office of Education, 1990. 18 pages.
U.S. Department of Education. WHAT WORKS: SCHOOLS WITHOUT DRUGS. Washington,
D.C.: author, 1989. 96 pages. ED 313 654.