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Methuen Public Schools Drug Prevention Plan Intervention/ Prevention Strategies

Dean Brouder

Coordinator of Drug & Alcohol Resources

Since 2009


Brief History-

In 2009, The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)- was given to a selection of students in grades 5 through 11 in Methuen Public Schools.  The results indicated that there was still much to do to address the increasing issues related to substance abuse. At that time, an effective Health curriculum was in place to address prevention measures but the primary method of intervention was suspension from school. Much was needed to change the culture of the school community.  The position of Drug/ Alcohol Resource Coordinator was created to develop, implement, and coordinate a school-based approach to tackle the wide-scope of substance related issues that have direct impact on student achievement. This approach includes two major tenets- Intervention and Prevention.


PRESENTING PROBLEM:

  • Safe school- The survey showed that many students were engaged in or witness to unsafe, unhealthy, and/or age-inappropriate activities.  Anecdotal observations regarding substance use and abuse indicated that situations occurred before, during, and after school, including in hallways, on busses, in the parking lots, and during after school hour events.  In an effort to decrease this unsafe activity, a number of intervention methods has been implemented. In addition, prevention methods have since been developed and expanded to promote and provide healthy alternative social experiences for the youth of MPS.


INTERVENTION:

  • Administration & Staff- The coordinator worked very closely with the superintendent and administration to change the culture of the schools.  Other staff members, crucial to this team effort, included nurses, resource officers, and guidance counselors.

  • Referral System- The coordinator established an approved system for identifying at risk students and procedures for a plan of action that could potentially help the student avoid suspension and/or continuous substance abuse problems.  A system-wide, confidential  “Potential Substance Abuse Referral Form” was devised and supplied to all school administrators.

  • Re-Entry- For students who were charged with drug or alcohol related offenses, a new policy regarding their re-entry into school (after suspension) was established.  The “Re-Entry Program Student Contract Phase I” was developed.  This contract involves the participation and signatures of the Drug/ Alcohol Resource Coordinator, administrator, staff, parents, and the student.  The student agrees to stay substance free, complete drug screen as necessary, attend all classes, maintain passing grades, avoid discipline infractions, and maintain communication with the Coordinator.

  • Multiple Offense Re-Entry- A second contract was developed for multiple offenders- The same applies with the added stipulation that the student attend an after school drug/alcohol program.

  • Staff Referrals-  The Coordinator also provides confidential support and assistance for staff members in need of intervention.

  • Resources- The Coordinator of Drug and Alcohol Resources (Dean Brouder) has over 30 years experience in related fields- educator, worked for the Psychological Center as drug and alcohol counselor, was coordinator of Drug Treatment on Demand Program at Lawrence District Court, and has ties to the local recovery community-referrals are made for students as necessary.

  • Police- A relationship with the Coordinator of School Resource Officers (police) has been established as a means to coordinate the work of the schools with the Methuen Police Department to provide for a safer community. Incidents related to house parties, secluded wood area parties, stores serving minors, and student arrests, are topics of mutual interest.

  • Sheriff’s Department-  Sheriff Cousins’ School Out Reach Program was brought to CGS and 9th grade Health classes: Project TND (Towards No Drug Abuse). Funding for this program was cut in 20012.

  • Cooperation with District Attorney’s Office (CCI)- Member of the Community Collaborative Initiative-Mandated by Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 12, Section 32, are regularly held in all school districts in Essex County. These meetings bring together schools, police, probation, and other state agencies to address youth violence and provide appropriate prevention and intervention resources.

  • Statistics- Since fall of 2009 to January 2014- Approximately 167 have been disciplined due to substance related incidents.  Each student signed re-entry contracts upon returning to school. These contracts are kept in confidential files. Each student met with the coordinator and a plan of action (to utilize local resources) was initiated.  Parents were requested to meet privately and resources were explored to assist the family. Out of that total only five students were charged with a second offense.  These students had a longer suspension and additional requirements for re-entry. Since 2009 two students were brought up for expulsion.  Some of the students in the initial interventions have now received sobriety medallions in the local recovery community.


SUCCESS STORY-

Prior to the implementation of this program, Methuen had 12-16 incidents at senior prom, including under the influence and hospitalization due to alcohol poisoning. Parents were called to take their children home.  Initiatives to discourage students from drinking on prom night included:

  • Prom awareness campaign- staff worked diligently as a team.

  • Guest speakers presented scare tactic approach to warn students of dangers of drunk driving.

  • Seniors signed contracts to promise not to drink and drive.

  • Breathalyzers were used at prom door.

  • Team of adults to monitor bathrooms,  & dance hall- movement was restricted.

We have had not one, documented incident, involving drugs or alcohol at senior prom for the last

6 years.


PREVENTION:

The most effective piece in alleviating at risk behaviors is the prevention model.  Our goal is to create a safe environment in each of the schools.  The SADD advisors of each school promote a focus on creating an identity that embraces a healthy self-image and a drug-free lifestyle.  They encourage the development of leadership qualities with a focus on family, school, and community.  Participation in these activities enables students to have a collective voice in making decisions that are beneficial to themselves and their community.  Most activities take place after school, on weekends, and during vacations.

  • Packet-A brief summary of services was provided to every principal, associate principal, dean of students, guidance counselor, and nurse in the system prior to the start of this school year. Information included the process for making referrals and interventions, sample contracts, and summary of local services.


  • Statistics since fall of 2009 to January 2014-Referrals are an integral key to any successful drug prevention strategy.  It takes a great deal of time and effort to develop trust in our program so that staff, students, and parents will have the courage to make referrals.  We have increased referrals each year and with the hiring of the Deans in each school, it is anticipated that referrals will increase significantly.  From 2009 to June of 2013 referrals averaged 20 to 25 per year.  Those students were contacted as well as their parents and resources were offered to assist them in dealing with the possibility of a drug issue. Students, staff, and family members have all been included in that referral process.  To indicate a success in increased referrals, there have already been 25 referrals since September.

SADD- (Students Against Destructive Decisions)- Methuen has the only school district in the state to have a group in each school building (high school, 9th grade campus, and 4 grammar schools).  District wide- over 200 members who have signed “Contracts for Life- A Foundation for Trust and Caring.”  The following is a list of examples of activities supported by Methuen’s SADD chapter:

  • Kick off barbecue at Forest Lake- fall of 2009- over 150 SADD students and family members in attendance

  • Summer pool party

  • Annual SADD appreciation breakfast for 9th graders with presentations from Superintendent, Police Chief, and other city officials

  • SADD recruitment by high school students at grammar schools before the startup of the grammar schools

  • Bowling trips- average 3-4 per year

  • Hiking Mt. Major, NH-SADD advisors, principal, 30 students

  • Involved in mat ball fundraiser event to benefit cancer survivor, Alli Hawkes- (total $6,000)

  • Bella Tucker (8 yr old child lost all her limbs due to infection) fundraiser - $1800

  • Laser tag-2+ times per year

  • Haunted Woods hayride event

  • First Course- road race to benefit Lazarus House

  • Volunteer work at Cor Unum soup kitchen

  • Annual participation in Methuen Santa parade

  • Annual participation in Festival of Trees

  • Annual participation in Relay for Life (usually two SADD groups are represented)

Upcoming events include the following:

  • Black Out Bullying Day (Jan 24)- SADD will be promoting “Black Out Bullying Day- state wide initiative to raise awareness around the consequences of bullying and cyber bullying.  SADD members will wear black T-shirts. Sponsored by Tenney SADD.

  • National Smoke-Out Day- (Feb 28)- field trip to Skate Land- Sponsored by Timony SADD. (SADD is currently engaged in work related to anti tobacco use related to Chapter 84-part of the Northeast Tobacco- Free Community Partnership)

  • March 4- Youth Summit- sponsored by District Attorney- “Pass It On”: Be an Agent of Positive Change in Our Community.  One SADD student will attend conference.

Presentations-SADD sponsored school wide presentations- Timony and the Marsh- inmate and athlete presentations about the consequences of drug related behaviors and destructive decisions.

  • Prom speakers-

  • AA/ NA- guest speakers- speak from the heart about their experiences of drug addiction

  • Mothers who have lost children to addiction- have been guest speakers in the past

  • MVP- (Methuen Violence Prevention Group) –initiated by Superintendent and Mr. Brouder- to focus on developing leadership opportunities in the Arlington neighborhood.  Currently, we have two advisors at the high school.  Recent activities include anti-bullying campaign, the sale of Up2us bracelets, homework help at the Arlington School Program.

  • Television Series- Community out-reach-  11 videos over a two year period-community hosted by Dean Brouder “Let’s Talk” Methuen educational cable show-http://vimeo.com/groups/mpsletstalk- discontinued due to new school construction- will re-establish when new studio is completed in spring of 2014.

  • Police-  Methuen police have been effective and involved in the education of MPS students.  The DARE program had once been a part of the earlier education of students, and we have considered re-instating it at some time in the near future.

  • Annecdotal Narratives- Students and staff have written letters attesting to the benefits of involvement in the SADD program as indicated by their success stories.