What You Can DoSchools Help Kids Resist the Pressure to Drink

Do you know what steps, if any, are being taken within your school system to help kids resist the pressure to drink?

Prohibit the possession or consumption of alcohol at all school-related activities. If not already in place, schools should create a policy that prohibits alcohol use at any school-related event—even those not held on school property. For example, alcohol possession or consumption should be prohibited for everyone (including parents and other adults) at all sports events, banquets, fundraisers, and teachers' gatherings. If alcohol is available to adults at these events, students may be able to access it, or at least be given the message by example that alcohol is a natural part of socializing. Instead, teachers, parents, and other adults can be good models by not drinking alcohol at any school-related event.

A good school alcohol policy does the following:

  • States that alcohol and alcohol use are not allowed on school grounds, at school-sponsored activities, and while students are representing the school
  • Describes the consequences for violating the policy
  • Explains how to assess and refer students who use alcohol, and guarantees that self-referral will be treated confidentially and will not be punished
  • Pays attention to due process issues in dealing with violators
  • Is cautious about imposing suspension and expulsion for violators because students who are away from school, especially if unsupervised, have even more opportunity to drink alcohol
  • Offers students accurate information about addiction and other detrimental effects of alcohol use

Adopt practices to prevent students from bringing alcohol to school or school-related events. Some students may attempt to bring alcoholic beverages to school and school events despite strict policies against this behavior. Examples of policies to reduce or eliminate students from attempting to bring alcohol include:

  • Allow only mesh or see-through bags. Many schools already require students to carry these types of bags instead of backpacks or purses in order to prevent carrying of weapons.
  • Monitor students as they enter the event. Require chaperones stationed at the entrances to check suspicious bags and thermoses.
  • Monitor parking lots where underage alcohol use often occurs.
  • Prohibit students from re-entering an event once they have left.

Consider integrating Student Assistance Programs (SAPs). SAPs are a school-based approach to providing focused services to students needing interventions for substance abuse or other problems. SAPs identify and link students to behavioral health education, programs and services in the school and community to address students’ barriers to learning due to a social, emotional, or mental health issue. SAPs are a process--not a curriculum or treatment center--that connects education, programs, and services within and across systems to aid students and their families. The overarching goal of SAPs is to remove barriers to education so that a student may achieve academically.

The following summarizes the SAP service process:

  • Referrals of students to the SAP come from classroom teachers, school counselors, through school disciplinary processes, by parents, and occasionally by students themselves—anyone who recognizes a need for SAP services in a student. 
  • Services are delivered by a core group of individuals, typically a combination of school personnel (e.g. administrators, nurses, counselors, and teachers) and external service providers (e.g. community-based organizations or community health providers).
  • Services provided include educational support groups, referrals to outside agencies, tutoring, after-school activities, peer mediation and conflict resolution, and career guidance.
  • Issues addressed by many SAPs include:
    • Prevention (AOD, tobacco, drop-out, pregnancy & STDs)
    • Violence/Bullying
    • Academics/Attendance, or
    • Behavior and Mental Health (grief, anger management, relationships, self-harm).

For more information on SAPs, i.e. National Student Assistance Association, see the following link: http://www.nsaa.us/

Integrate prevention curricula into school services. There exist many science-based ATOD prevention programs; the key is to find the one that best fits your youth population and the issues they face. To help decide which program is the best fit for your school, you may want to turn to a Model Program database. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), in particular, has rated more programs than other agencies and uses a broader and more scientifically rigorous framework in evaluation, employing a wider variety of criteria. CSAP’s National Registry of Effective Prevention Programs (NREPP) includes not only CSAP-sponsored programs and those not rated elsewhere, but also programs already rated by other agencies. The mission of NREPP is to identify, review, and disseminate effective prevention programs; it also provides a platform for experts to review and evaluate programs using the scientific method.

For more information on Model Programs, see the following link:

Below are two examples of model programs that are school-based and focus on ATOD prevention:

Project Toward No Drug Abuse (TND) is a highly interactive program designed to help high school youth (14 to 19 years old) resist substance use.

  • Recommended for indicated and selective (based on IOM model) high school youth.
  • Originally developed to work with youth in alternative high schools with higher risk youth, but has since been adopted by many traditional high schools.
  • Targets ATOD by encouraging youth to participate in lower-risk activities, to appreciate the risks of drugs on the body, and to develop positive decision-making skills.
  • 40- to 50-minute interactive curriculum designed to be presented in 12 lessons.
  • Good fit for a pullout group format.

Too Good For Drugs (TGFD) is a school-based prevention program designed to reduce the intent to use alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.

  • Recommended for selective (based on IOM model) middle and high school youth.
  • Middle school curriculum is grade-specific; high school is not.
  • Designed to reduce the intent to use ATOD during the middle and high school years.
  • Relies on small group activities, role play and group discussions regarding appropriate attitudes toward ATOD use, knowledge of ATOD’s negative consequences, the benefits of a drug-free lifestyle, and positive peer norms.
  • Also meets the needs of schools seeking to prevent conflict and violence on their campuses.
  • 10-lesson curriculum once a week for 14 lessons.
  • Optional home workouts for parents and infusion lessons are included.
In the School. 2004. Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free. Available at: http://www.alcoholfreechildren.org/en/act/school.cfm. Accessed on [10/05/06]

What Schools Can Do. Alcohol Epidemiology Program: University of Minnesota. Available at: http://www.epi.umn.edu/alcohol/policy/schools.shtm. Accessed on [10/02/06]

L Austin, G. and R. Skager. 10th biennial California Student Survey Drug, Alcohol and Tobacco Use 2003-2004. WestEd. California’s Attorney General’s Office. http://safestate.org/documents/CSS03MainFindings.pdf  [Accessed on 08/15/06]

Hansen WB, Graham JW, Wolkenstein BH, et al. 1991. Program integrity as a moderator of prevention program effectiveness: Results for fifth-grade students in the adolescent alcohol prevention trial. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 52(6):568-579.

National Social Norms Resource Center. Available at:  http://www.socialnorms.org/CaseStudies/evanston.php. Accessed on [09/08/06]

A Campus Case Study in Implementing Social Norms and Environmental Management Approaches. 1999. The University of Arizona Campus Health Service.

A Campus Case Study in Implementing Social Norms and Environmental Management Approaches. 1999. The University of Arizona Campus Health Service.

Hansen WB. 1993. School-based alcohol prevention programs. Alcohol Health and Research World 17(1):54-60.

Phillips, J.L. Springer, F. & Roberts, B. 2005. Summary Report: High Rate Underage Users Workgroup Findings and Recommendations. Community Prevention Institute.

Schools and the Community Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Environment: Opportunities for Prevention.1998. Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. U.S. Department of Justice.

Schools and the Community Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drug Environment: Opportunities for Prevention.1998. Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. U.S. Department of Justice.