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  • Policy 2.13

    Drug Issues in Catholic Schools

    Rationale

    The Church teaches that parents, social workers, priests, religious and laity are witnesses and the first protagonists in trying to understand, intervene and propose to individuals an alternative to drug dependency. The family is one of the first places for this to happen, however, it cannot do so in isolation from the parish, the community or the work of education.1
     

    Drug use and drug-related issues confront most communities at some time in varied ways. School communities are well aware of the impact of harmful drugs on students and their families and accept that they, as well as parents, governments and the wider community, have a role to play in reducing the harm that can arise from drug use. Fundamental to improving the capacity of school communities to respond is the development and regular review of a policy, or a range of policies and strategies, that address drug issues in schools. Such policies and strategies will encompass health promotion initiatives, age-appropriate drug education programs based on a harm minimisation approach, and agreed and understood procedures for responding to drug-related issues.

    Definitions

    • Health promoting schools. Schools where all members of the school community work together to provide students with integrated and positive experiences and structures that promote and protect their health. This includes the provision of information about appropriate health services and the involvement of the family and the wider community in efforts to promote health.
    • School drug education. A term to encompass all policies, practices, programs and initiatives/events in schools connected with the prevention and reduction of drug-related harm2. 3  
    • Harm minimisation refers to policies and programs aimed at reducing drug-related harm which includes the promotion of abstinence, prevention of anticipated harm, and reduction of actual harm.
    • Drug Any substance, with the exception of food and water, which, when taken into the body, alters its function physically and psychologically. This includes all legal and illegal substances.
    • Illicit drug A drug of which the production, sale, possession or use is prohibited. An alternative term is ‘illegal drug’.
    • Unsanctioned drug A drug for which use is restricted by law, school authorities and/or school policies/guidelines. The term includes illicit, social and prescription drugs.
    • Drug-related incident An occasion involving alcohol, tobacco and/or other illicit or unsanctioned drug use and/or the possession of a drug or drug-related equipment (except for legal medical use).
    • Drug-related issues All issues associated with drugs, including those that arise from personal use and use by another person or persons.
    • Prevention The strategies used to prevent drug use from occurring at all or to delay the onset of use.
    • Intervention The strategies implemented when responding to drug related issues.
    • Possession Occupying or holding a substance either with or without rights of ownership.

    Principles

    • Good governance This policy supports the commitment by Catholic Education Melbourne to good governance and strong ethical practices.
    • Resourcing Catholic Education Melbourne is committed to putting in place the appropriate expertise, resources and systems to ensure continuity of its critical business functions in the event of major disruption or disaster.
    • Student wellbeing Staff and all people working in schools have a responsibility to care for children, to promote their wellbeing and to protect them from any form of harm.
    • Safety School drug education is best achieved within a school environment that is safe, supportive, inclusive and empowering, where diversity is respected and valued, where human rights and the common good are honoured, where inter-relationships are positive, where students experience connectedness and engagement, and where those experiencing difficulty or special need receive particular care and support. A safe supportive and inclusive environment should be promoted as part of seeking to prevent or reduce drug related harm.4  
    • Collaboration with community The planning and implementation of school drug education should involve collaborative relationships between students, staff, families and the broader community.5  
    • Consistency Consistent policy and practice should inform and manage responses to drug related incidents and risks.6  
    • Trust The highest standards of trust must be maintained in the special relationships between teachers, parents and other adults working with students in a school setting.
    • A whole-school approach A whole-school approach to drug education encompasses formal teaching and learning programs, student wellbeing and pastoral care programs, school ethos and values, interpersonal relationships, and effective partnerships with parents and services in the wider community. A whole school approach provides a systematic and practical framework which schools can use to manage drug related issues and to ensure that the wellbeing and individual needs of all students is supported.

    Procedures

    Policy Development and Review

    A core team made up of members of the school community should be involved in policy development and drug education review. The policy and related documents (e.g. strategy, framework, protocol) will:

    • outline the sequential drug education program based on the principles of harm minimisation;
    • develop structures and processes which support students and ensure appropriate care.
    • advise students, parents and staff of school rules, consequences and procedures for responding to unsanctioned drug use or drug-related incidents;
    • identify specific support services and networks available to students, parents and staff;
    • ensure the ongoing professional development of all staff; and
    • show links to other related school policies.

    It is important that school policies and procedures addressing drug related incidents are clearly communicated and understood by students, staff and parents.

    Prevention programs and strategies

    A school’s formal teaching and learning program, and its informal curriculum, must provide students with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will assist them to develop their problem solving, decision making, assertiveness and help-seeking skills in relation to drug use.

    Programs should take into account the environment of the students, the attitude of the local community towards the use of various drugs, and the reasons students may be likely to use drugs. Such programs will also need to provide:

    • opportunities for students to develop resiliency skills that enable them to better cope with change;
    • a harm minimisation approach which encompasses a range of strategies, including non-use which aims to reduce harmful consequences of drug use. and
    • information on the consequences of drug use and safety messages about risks.

    Intervention programs and strategies


    Community partnerships and services

    It is essential for schools to establish meaningful links with the Department of Education and Training (DET), the Victorian Police, Youth Resource Officers, community agencies, the local church and health services, to strengthen the schools’ ability to manage and respond to drug related issues. The school can play a critical role in referring students and their families to those agencies qualified to provide the necessary support and advice. Further, during a student’s treatment, the school can offer support and assist in maintaining engagement with the life of the school.

    Professional Development and Parent Education

    Professional development for teachers should provide opportunities for school staff to plan and implement age-appropriate preventative drug education programs and keep abreast of current knowledge, trends, resources and practices in drug education.

    Schools have a significant role to play in providing information to parents about drug-related issues through strategies such as parent information forums and seminars. Intervention is intended to prevent further deterioration in the health of those using drugs inappropriately. Intervention procedures developed should be based on the concern for the care of the individual and the protection of all involved.

    Successful intervention strategies will require professional learning for staff to assist them in promoting the wellbeing of young people; establishment of appropriate referral information and procedures; and the promulgation of procedures for managing drug related issues at school.

    Management of Drug Related Incidents

    The possession, use, distribution or selling of illicit drugs on school premises at any function or activity organised by the school is prohibited. Schools should have clearly defined policies and procedures relating to illicit drugs included in the school’s drug education policy.

    In the case of incidents involving illicit or unsanctioned drug use at the school, initial actions and responses should focus on the safety and wellbeing of those directly and indirectly involved.

    If the principal of a school has knowledge of the use, possession and distribution of illicit drugs the local designated police officer must be contacted in order for a collaborative approach with the wellbeing of the young person being the priority. Schools will work collaboratively with Victoria Police to ensure appropriate action is taken in response to drug related incidents including those involving illicit drugs.7 It is recommended that the school also consult Catholic Education Melbourne for advice.

    Catholic Education Melbourne February 2009 

     


    Endnotes 1 Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction Pastoral Handbook, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002, nn. 10–11.

    2 Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA), National Safe Schools Framework, Guiding Principles and Key Elements, 2003.

    3 Principles for School Drug Education, Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, 2004, p. 5.

    4 Principles for School Drug Education, Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, 2004, p. 24.

    5 Principles for School Drug Education, Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, 2004, p. 27.

    6 Principles for School Drug Education, Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, 2004, p. 36.

    7 Victorian Government Reference Guide, 4.6.6.2.3

    8 Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Limited (CECV) and the Association of Independent Schools Victoria (AISV), July, 2007.

    ReferenceLegal Issues In Schools. Revised Edition 2009. 


     

     



    1 Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction Pastoral Handbook, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002, nn. 10–11.
    2 Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA), National Safe Schools Framework, Guiding Principles and Key Elements, 2003,
    3 Principles for School Drug Education, Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, 2004, p. 5.
    4 Principles for School Drug Education, Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, 2004, p. 24.
    5 Principles for School Drug Education, Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, 2004, p. 27
    6 Principles for School Drug Education, Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, 2004, p. 36.
    7 Victorian Government Reference Guide, 4.6.6.2.3
    8 Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Limited (CECV) and the Association of Independent Schools Victoria (AISV), July, 2007.

    Reference
    Legal Issues In Schools. Revised Edition 2009.