Take Action in Secondary Schools
Policies and Guidelines
What is the Policy Development Process?
The development and implementation of an alcohol and drug policy is a substantial undertaking for a school or school board. Its success depends on the level of commitment reflected by the administration and staff as well as the consistency of its application.
General Steps in Developing a School Policy
A good way to begin is to strike a policy development group, including administration, teachers, other school staff, community partners, parents and students. This group can steer the process using these guidelines:
For tips on developing an effective school alcohol policy and for a sample school board policy on student alcohol and drug use, visit www.apolnet.ca and look for the resource Let's Take Action on Alcohol Problems in Schools and on Campus under the publications section.
- Select the desired objective: This should reflect accepted school or community values and goals. What do we want to change or have an impact on? What are our priorities and responsibilities? Example: Reduce the incidence of substance use during school hours by students.
- Identify the target group: Who will this policy be directed to? Who will be affected by this policy? Example: All students but in particular students who display at risk behaviours or are at risk of being disciplined for substance use during school hours.
- Determine the pathway to reach that objective: This reflects the choice or decision in terms of how the objective is achieved. How will we achieve this? What is the most appropriate means of achieving the objective? Example: Increase knowledge and awareness through use of a peer-based program to educate and mentor students at risk.
- Design the specific program or measure: While drafting the comprehensive policy, the group can review other sample policies for content ideas, but ultimately their policy should reflect local values, perspectives and circumstances. Consulting with the target group and gathering feedback is important. A final policy is developed based on these revisions and the policy receives the necessary administrative approvals. What specific programs or measures can be offered or developed to achieve this goal? Example: Develop/adapt a peer mentoring program, develop school based educational activities.
- Implement the policy and assess its impact: The final step involves the communication and the implementation of the new policy. Sub-committees may be struck to implement each of the components. Training needs of staff should also be identified and a strategy developed. Training can range from delivering lesson plans, to the development of identification and referral skills that are necessary for the successful implementation of the intervention component. Communication to staff, students and parents is critical, and an annual communication strategy is an important element in the implementation of the policy. Lastly, this policy needs to be "re-visited", revised as necessary, and promoted on an annual basis. For policies to be effective, the student body must be aware of and comprehend them. Example: Offer a peer mentoring program to students involved in risk behaviours and activities. Monitor and evaluate the impact on this program.
The real challenge for educators is to use their legal authority with restraint in an effort to balance these three components of prevention, intervention and discipline, while maintaining the type of supportive learning environment essential to the policy's overall success.