New guide for drug prevention in schools says no scare tactics, - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

New guide for drug prevention in schools says no scare tactics, mock crashes

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A new resource guide for superintendents, teachers, and educators across the state of Ohio is shedding some light on the "best practices" for drug prevention lessons in the classroom. 

The Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education and Attorney General Mike DeWine issued guidelines and recommendations for how schools can create comprehensive, age-appropriate drug education. 

The guidebook expands on a 2017 report that included 15 recommendations. The committee's first recommendation in that report was that every Ohio student receives annual, age-appropriate prevention education in grades kindergarten through 12. 

The new resource book has four main areas of focus: prevention education, environmental strategies, community-based processes, and problem identification and referral. 

"We heard from many teachers and school administrators who agreed with the need for drug use prevention and requested guidance on how to best implement the recommendations in their schools," said Attorney General DeWine. "This guide is designed to lead teachers and administrators through a strategic planning process where they can tailor a comprehensive prevention plan to fit their school and community's unique needs, and provides examples from schools across Ohio."

Among the list of "best practices" are some recommendations about what does not necessarily work so well. 

The guidelines say "All prevention programs should strive to "do no harm." Because of children and adolescents' brain chemistry and design, some well-intentioned programs could be detrimental to a child's
long-term substance use." 

The resource book cautions educators against using scare tactics. 

Scare tactics are not effective at preventing substance-use and
should be avoided. Some examples of scare tactics and ineffective prevention strategies:

• Drug/paraphernalia displays
• Stories by former drug abusers
• General awareness/statistics
• Information on drugs and their effects
• Teaching signs and symptoms of addiction
• Mock car crashes
• Graphic images of people using drugs

Schools should also be careful not to dramatize alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use by illustrating
their use. Using people in addiction recovery who tell their story is also ineffective prevention and
may inadvertently cause harm because of an adolescent's sense of invincibility. 

The committee found that using a list of 12 services, schools can compile drug prevention education strategies that can be successful. The 12 services included in the list are:
1. Before- and after-school programs
2. Cross-curricular prevention education
3. Health education curricula
4. Social-emotional learning
5. School climate and drug-use surveys
6. Alcohol, drug, and mental health board engagement and treatment providers
7. Caregiver engagement
8. Law enforcement engagement
9. Professional development in mental health and substance use
10. Youth-led prevention
11. Community-based health referrals 
12. School-based health care services

However, the guidelines do make the concession that prevention education will not be the same across the board.  

A portion of the report reads: "There is no single "right" way to provide prevention education. Accordingly, prevention education may look different from school to school. For example, some school districts may contract with a provider to conduct prevention education during a recess period, while others have health-based curricula, and others work with their D.A.R.E. officer to incorporate D.A.R.E. Keepin' It Real or with their School Resource Officer (SRO) on other evidence-based curricula. What is critical, however, is that every student receives effective, age-appropriate prevention education every year, from kindergarten through 12th grade."

However, schools are told to consider instituting before and after-school programs to provide students with structure and guidance during peak danger hours of 3-6 p.m. 

Teachers are also urged to follow the example of Boardman Local schools, where a learning program has been designed to incorporate drug prevention education into common core classes. 

In that program, students are offered lessons throughout the year that total 10 hours of science instruction on how the brain works, the effects of drugs on the brain, and the process of addiction. 

Programs deemed the best practices also reportedly include K-12 health education that focuses on social-emotional learning concepts including a students' ability to use communication, decision-making, goal-setting, and advocacy skills to enhance their own health. 

The guidelines also suggest that schools take part in, or administer, surveys in order to understand the climate of students and their communities. 

Another main factor in the report suggests that schools lack resources such as, trained preventionists, access to curriculum, and capital to provide evidence-based prevention education.

The committee recommended that teachers be provided free training on mental health issues and drug prevention methods, and work with local boards of health to establish community-based health referral systems. 

Schools are also expected to establish relationships with parents and caregivers in order to hear from parents and communicate with them. Similarly, schools are advised to form a relationship with their local police force and allow officers to have a visible, physical presence in the schools.

Breann Almos, Public Affairs Liaison at the Ohio Attorney General's Office, said that these guidelines are voluntary for school districts. 

The guide and workbook is being sent to all school districts in the state and administrators will also be invited to regional training sessions in the fall.

The full list of guidelines can be found here: 


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