Substance Use Policy
The Code of Behaviour of TCS states that “the possession, use or distribution of alcohol, tobacco or illegal substances while in school or on school outings is not permitted and will result in sanctions up to and including suspension and expulsion.”
Introduction to the Policy
The National Drugs Strategy 2001 – 2008 sets out a detailed programme of action to be implemented to combat the very serious problem of drug misuse in our society. The strategy highlights the important contribution that schools can make in the area of education and prevention, and requires them to have substance use policies in place.
The central objective of our school’s substance use policy is the welfare, care and protection of every young person in line with the Education Act, 1998 and the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000. The policy will address both education concerning alcohol, tobacco and drugs and the procedures for managing incidents relating to these substances.
The reason for a policy on Substance Use
- The world in which we live presents young people with many challenges that affect their health and well-being. Exposure to alcohol, tobacco and drugs is part of this reality. Tallaght Community School (TCS) has reflected upon how it might provide for the needs of the student cohort and respond appropriately to what are sometimes sensitive and emotive issues.
- The Education Act (1998) provides that schools should promote the social and personal development of students and provide health education for them.
The Development of a Substance Use Policy and how is it developed
TCS’s substance use policy sets out, in writing, the framework within which the whole school community manages issues relating to substance use. It reflects the unique ethos of the school and aims to develop a shared understanding of the term ‘drugs’.
A partnership approach based on the ‘whole school’ model is used for the development of the policy. The policy applies to the entire school community, including teachers, students, parents/guardians, Board of Management, all other school staff and users of the school environment.
The School Position
TCS is committed to addressing the needs of the whole school in relation to drugs. We believe that Teachers, Parents/Guardians, Board of Management, students and other relevant personnel need to work together and that co-operation is essential to the acceptance and implementation of the policy.
It has been agreed that a Drug is ‘any substance which changes the way the body functions, mentally, physically or emotionally’.
TCS recognises that Drugs – both legal and illegal are available in the local community and that the school being part of this community may have drug incidents, which need to be handled in a consistent and sensitive way. TCS also acknowledges that it has an important role to play in drugs education both in terms of prevention and offering support to those who use drugs.
The School Ethos
TCS believes that the Personal and Social Development of each member of the school community is important. Education flourishes in an environment where good relationships are encouraged, where people feel valued and respected and where there is genuine tolerance, fairness and support for those in difficulty. This philosophy underpins and informs all the work we do and is central to this policy document.
The Use of Drugs in School
TCS does not tolerate or condone the possession, use or supply of drugs in the school, or while participating in school related activities, educational trips, outings etc. or in non-school time by any member of the school community. The only exception is for legitimate medicinal use and in which case the school has to be informed.
This policy is focused on four key areas:-
- Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug Education Programmes
- Managing Substance Abuse Incidents
- Training and Staff Development
- Monitoring, Review and Evaluation.
1. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Education Programmes
The School Position
TCS is committed to providing a comprehensive and timetabled drug education programme for all students, which will be incorporated into the Social, Personal and Health Education Programme currently running in the school.
Our educational aims in relation to Drug Education are:
- * To increase the self-esteem and confidence of the students.
- * To equip students with personal and social skills.
- * To enable students to make informed, healthy and responsible choices.
- * To provide honest and age appropriate information on drugs.
- * To minimise the harm caused by drug use by offering supportive interventions/referral.
These aims will be met through the following actions:
- All teachers involved in SPHE will be given the opportunity to avail of training in group facilitation skills and personal development.
- All school staff will be offered, where practicable and relevant, Drug Information and Drug Awareness training.
We believe that trained teachers particularly in S.P.H.E. are in the best position to carry out drug education but sometimes it may be appropriate to use an outside speaker to supplement or reinforce the work done in the class.
Parents/Guardians will be made aware and informed of what is happening in the school with regard to drug education. This will happen on a yearly basis.
2. Managing Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug-related Incidents
The School Approach
We acknowledge that in all situations involving drugs, these needs to be a balance between the needs of the young person, the needs of the school community and the reputation of the school. Listening, separating fact from myth and support will be our initial approach to the situation. Disciplinary procedures will be followed if school rules are broken and expulsion will be an option when all else has failed.
The following are examples of a drug incident:
- Emergencies when the person may be unconscious
- Intoxication/unusual behaviour
- Suspicion/rumour of drug use, possession or dealing
- Disclosure by another person
- Possession of a legal/illegal drug on the school premises or on a school related activity
- Selling/supplying legal/illegal drugs
- Person seeking help from member of staff
- School grounds being used for drug activity
- Drug paraphernalia found on school property
Assessing a drug incident
In all cases where there is no immediate danger to the students, it will be important to take time to assess the situation before responding
All staff needs to be aware of the signs of drug use and alert for changes in behaviour. Adolescence is a period of great change and rumour must not be taken as evidence of drug use.
In situations of confirmed use/possession or supply then all the details will be recorded and acted upon. A written recording procedure will be used. This procedure will ensure that fair process of challenging the student about behaviour of concern is in place.
Managing a drug incident
It is important in all suspected or confirmed drug incidents that a limited number of people are involved in managing the incident. People will be informed on a ‘need to know’ basis.
The Principal, Drug Co-ordinator, Guidance Counsellor and person/s directly involved in the case will be informed and all written documentation will be held confidentially by the school.
In most cases the school will want to involve the parents/carers. This needs to be handled sensitively and wherever possible support offered to them. In the first instance, this support will be offered by the Guidance Counsellor.
It is agreed that the Principal or a designated person will contact the Garda/Juvenile Liaison Officer (JLO) in the event of a confirmed drug incident and any drugs found on the premises will be dealt with by the JLO.
The pastoral care system is our first response to a drug incident. For some young people their involvement with drugs may be masking some underlying difficulties and for others it may be a phase of experimentation, which they will pass through safely.
- In response to all incidents, pastoral support will be offered.
- If the person has a serious drug problem then referral to an appropriate service will be recommended.
- Parents and staff involved in the incident will be offered support.
Drug incidents are complex and in situations where the school rules regarding drugs are broken, the sanctions and punishments will be implemented depending on the nature and severity of the offence. These will be consistent with school rules regarding other breaches of conduct.
TCS aims to keep students in the school system wherever possible, as early school leaving is associated with increased risk of problem behaviours including substance use.
Teachers cannot offer total confidentiality to a student who discloses drug involvement. We recognise the need for care in this area as the student may be coming to the teacher because they trust him/her and need help. How this situation is handled will have an important bearing on the outcome. Information must remain private and only disclosed on a strict ‘need to know’ basis. The student must be informed about what is happening and why.
The well-being and welfare of the young person and the teacher must be the prime focus. A planned module will be incorporated into the SPHE programme.
3. Training and Staff Development
We will provide where practicable:
- TCS will endeavour to make available training to staff involved in delivering Social, Personal and Health Education Programmes.
- All staff will be offered drug information and awareness training on an ongoing basis.
- We will endeavour that training will be made available to the Drug Co-ordinator and key staff in relation to managing drug related incidents.
- We will endeavour that First-aid training be available to all staff.
Parents & Board of Management
- TCS will facilitate opportunities to attend information evenings and workshops on issues relating to drugs and these opportunities will be offered as part of the induction course for parents of new students to the school.
- TCS will offer all its students drug education programmes within the context of their SPHE classes.
- Transition Year students will have a First Aid module in their programme
- Outside speakers will be engaged from time to time
- The Science department will assist with drug education
4. Review of the Policy
Review of the Policy
The policy will be reviewed annually, or in the light of changing information, by the present group in consultation with the wider school community.
Teachers, Parents, Students, Board of Management and other relevant groups will be involved in the evaluation of this policy and any changes incorporated into the amended policy.
The three main areas of the policy will evaluate:
- Drug Education Programmes
- Managing Drug Related Incidents
- Parent, Staff and Management Training and courses offered to the school community.
A Health/Drugs Policy Co-ordinator will be appointed who will focus, in particular, on the areas of:
- Staff education
- Student education
- Recording systems
- Implementation, review and evaluation
- Liaison with relevant groups
Dissemination of policy
Copies of the policy will be disseminated to all the school community. It will also be freely available from the Principal’s Office and will be available for viewing on the school’s website.
Students will be made aware of the policy as part of their drugs education within the context of a Social, Personal and Health Education Programme.
Report Form for recording incidents involving Alcohol, Tobacco and Drugs
Time and date of incident :
What happened? Include only facts :
Who was involved? What was seen? What was said?
What are your concerns?
Is this incident related to others? Other comments?
Who has been informed?
What action has been taken?
* Copy to be given to the relevant Year Head(s)
The school position in relation to smoking
- Persons under the age of 18 are not legally allowed to buy tobacco products
- Smoking is not allowed in a secondary school (including the school yard)
- The Minister for Education and Science has advised the managerial authorities of Primary and Post Primary schools that by law all enclosed workplaces must be smoke-free with effect from 29 March 2004. This law applies to schools.
- We are obliged to implement the law as outlined above.
- In addition TCS has a school rule prohibiting smoking (by students) anywhere on the school grounds or while on school outings.
- Through education and strict discipline measures, as set out in the Substance Use Policy, we wish to create a culture of non smoking. This is in accordance with our liability under the law and our duty of care to students.
- Any student caught smoking in the school or school grounds will be fined and parents notified. Any further offences will be dealt with much more severely – detention, suspension, expulsion. In the case of any illegal smoking, it may be necessary to contact the Gardaí.
Action Plan: in relation to smoking
What do we want to achieve?
to create a student culture of non smoking within the school and school grounds
What needs to be done?
Stage 1 : (1 week)
- Announcements on the intercom every day that smoking is not permitted in the school or on school grounds
- Roll-callers / Year Heads are asked to remind their class(es) of the “no smoking” rule.
Stage 2 : (1 week)
- Smokers will be approached and told to stop smoking. Cigarettes may be confiscated.
Stage 3 : (week 3 onwards)
- Any student caught smoking outside will be fined and parents notified (first or second offence). Any further offences will be dealt with much more severely – detention, suspension, expulsion.
- Students caught smoking inside the building are breaking the law and therefore will be dealt with severely – even for a first offence
Who will enforce this policy?
- Each teacher will need to be actively involved in enforcement – if there is to be real consistency
- Year Heads, Deputy Principal and Principal will have a particular role in relation to any disciplinary aspects
Practical procedures :
- Substance Use Report Form filled out by the teacher initially dealing with incident
- Form passed on to the relevant Year Head and a copy given to the person in charge of fines
- Parents notified by Year Head and any disciplinary measures put in place. Deputy Principal / Principal may be involved in any disciplinary process.
- Gardaí may be notified if the smoking incident took place with the school building (or school yard)
- The main resource required is the cooperation of staff in implementing this policy on a consistent and fair basis.
- Report forms will be made easily available – staff room, general office, year heads etc.
- One staff member will assume responsibility for handling the “fines” aspect – all monies collected to go to an appropriate charity. Fines are expected to be €5 for a first offence and €10 for a second offence.
Desired Outcomes :
- to create a culture of non-smoking among students
- to comply with the law
- to comply with our duty of care to students
Agreed monitoring procedures :
The Substance Use working group will monitor the operation of the policy over time
Agreed evaluation procedures :
After 6 months : Staff, parents and students will be asked to give their views on the operation of the policy