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Substance Abuse

This Policy is prepared in accordance with the requirements and provisions of the Education Act, 1998. It was approved by the Board of Management on 30th May, 2006.

1.1 Introduction

St. Mary’s College Naas is a Voluntary Catholic Secondary School for girls, operating under the Trusteeship of the Mercy Sisters, South Central Province. As such it supports the religious and educational philosophy of its founder, Catherine McAuley.

The Mercy Education philosophy is as follows:

Inspired by the vision of Catherine McAuley, Mercy Education is committed to holistic development and to the achievement of the full potential of each student, particularly the disadvantaged or marginalised. It is a process informed and influenced by the teaching and example of Jesus Christ and is conducted in an atmosphere of care, respect and joy. Mercy education is committed to an on-going whole-school development in collaboration and partnership with the Board of Management, staff, parents and the wider community.

The Mission Statement of St. Mary’s is:

St. Mary’s College is committed to creating a respectful, caring, safe and supportive learning environment rooted in the Christian tradition and having as its aim the holistic education of all our students, encouraging each one to develop her full potential.

1.2 Why have a substance use Policy?

§ 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. Schools, including St. Mary’s, need to reflect upon how they might provide for the needs of their 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 them with health education.
§ The National Drugs Strategy 2001-2008, ‘Building on Experience’, is now Government policy and it requires schools to have a substance use policy in place.
§ The report from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs entitled ‘Drug Use Prevention’ (November 2001) emphasises the importance of schools developing substance use policies.
§ The most recent European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) Report (2004) highlights the seriousness of the problem among 16 year olds in Ireland, with Ireland ranking second of the 35 participating countries in terms of drug use, highest in terms of adolescents who regularly binge drink and second highest in reported regular drunkenness.

This policy sets out the framework within which the whole school community manages issues relating to substance use.

1.3 Summary of Policy:

i. Student Body

St Mary’s College prohibits the supply and/or use of all substances on the school campus by any member of the student body during normal school hours. This policy also applies to external school related activities, sports, debates, educational trips etc. This policy should also be adhered to while in school uniform, en-route to or from school.

Breach of policy will be dealt with in an even-handed way in accordance with clearly defined guidelines and reflecting the school ethos outlined earlier. The school will strive to keep offending students in the school system where possible, but the safety and well being of the greater school community will be of primary importance.

ii Teaching and Administrative Staff / Visitors to Campus

St. Mary’s College prohibits the use of tobacco, stimulants, cannabis, solvents and opiates on the school campus at all times. The use of stimulants, cannabis, solvents or opiates is also prohibited on all external school related activities, sports events, debates, educational trips etc.

A limited use of alcohol may be appropriate at certain organised functions on-campus. Staff using tobacco or alcohol at external school events (e.g. educational trips) must be cognisant of the impact of such use in the presence of students.

This policy also notes employees’ legal obligations under Health and Safety legislation. Employees must ensure that they are not under the influence of an intoxicant to the extent that they may endanger themselves or others.

1.4 Structure of Policy

This policy document firstly outlines the specific role and responsibilities of the Principal and staff members in relation to substance use. It next specifies the process in place for educating and training students in respect of the relevant facts about substance use and how they might best be provided with the appropriate skills to deal with issues arising in this area. It also addresses the training to be provided to school staff and the information to be given to parents. The process of managing drug/substance related incidents are then outlined and, finally, the means by which the operation of the policy is monitored, reviewed and evaluated is set out.

2. Responsibilities of Principal and Staff

2.1 Responsibility of Principal

The Principal holds ultimate responsibility for all matters relating to the enforcement of this policy. The Principal may delegate to the Deputy Principal / Substance Co-ordinator / Year Head or other, to act on her/his behalf in investigating specific incidents.

The duties and responsibilities of the Principal (or nominated delegate) will include the following:

1. Dealing with all substance related incidents occurring in the school.
2. All reports of incidents must be advised immediately to the Principal.
3. Making all decisions regarding investigation of an incident; communicating with and liaising with all relevant parties; and making decisions on disclosure.
4. Keeping all parties appraised of developments regarding any investigation.
5. Securing and confidentially storing all documentation and records.
6. Taking possession and temporary storage of all confiscated material and making decisions on disposal.
7. Dealing with all media queries.

2.2 Responsibility of Staff Members

Staff members should be aware of the contents of this policy and realise that they may have the initial contact with substance users. They may have to make initial moves to control any given situation, pending notification and arrival of the Principal/Deputy Principal/Substance Co-ordinator / Gardai, as appropriate.

The Principal and staff must prioritise their own and student safety in determining the level of control required for any given situation.

3. Substance Education & Training Programmes

3.1 Students

St. Mary’s College is committed to providing appropriate education programmes for all its students as part of the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme across the school curriculum.

Our educational aims in relation to substance use are:

a. To increase the self esteem and confidence of the students.
b. To equip students with personal and social skills.
c. To provide honest and appropriate information on relevant substances.
d. To enable students to make informed and responsible choices.
e. To minimise harm by offering supportive and appropriate intervention
f. To publicise and highlight instances within the school community.

3.2 School Staff

1. All teachers involved in SPHE will be given the opportunity to avail of regular training in group facilitation and personal development as provided by the Department of Education and Science or other appropriate bodies in the context of this policy.
2. A substance co-ordinator may be appointed to work in close association with the Principal, Guidance Counsellors and Chaplain.
3. A resource file will be set up to provide up to date and relevant information on Drug, Tobacco and Alcohol Use.

3.3 Parents

1. The school, through its Parents’ Council will endeavour to assist in informing parents regarding substance use by organising Awareness Evenings in association with HSE, Gardai or other qualified personnel.
2. Parents are expected to support the college in their aims regarding substance use and to co-operate fully with the school in dealing with any incidents which may arise

4. Management of Drug/Substance related incident

4.1 Procedures to be adopted

The procedures and policies outlined in the following section take due account of current Health and Safety Legislation (Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. Particular account is taken of the risk to self and to others when under the influence of prohibited substances and the responsibility of the employer (Board of Management) in this regard. In all cases, discipline will take account of the seriousness of the particular incident. Counselling will be made available as appropriate from within the school system or by referral to external professionals by the Principal or Board of Management as agreed with the student, her parents or guardians.

a. Substance found on premises

i. Staff member confiscates substance and any associated equipment.
ii. Informs Principal /Deputy Principal.
iii. List and identify findings
iv Notify Gardai if appropriate.
v. Complete appropriate paperwork.

b. Student behavioural change: (Noted by Teacher or Staff member
giving rise to reasonable suspicion of substance use)

i. Closely monitor situation
ii. Ascertain problem by consultation with student
iii. Send for assistance if appropriate
iv. Principal, Deputy Principal or appointed Co-ordinator to attend
v. Make Decision
Medical Help (Naas Hospital)
Advise Parents or Guardians
Advise Gardai (only if appropriate)
To organise meeting with student/parent/JLO as
appropriate acting sensitively at all times.
Determine sanction if appropriate
vi. Maintain full documentation.

b.1 Behavioural Change Reported by Fellow Student/Gardai/Public

i. Monitor student with appropriate sensitivity to confirm behavioural change
ii Proceed as above (b.iii and b.iv)
iii. The school will be conscious of the sensitivity of such a report but may not be in a position to guarantee confidentiality in the case of such disclosure.

c. Student in possession or in act of using prohibited substance.

Ensure the immediate and accurate documentation of instance followed by a
fair and sensitive hearing.


Notify parents

Fine and Suspension

Repeat Offence:
Increase Fine, Longer Suspension


Assess Student
Notify Parents/Co-ordinator / Pastoral Team
Medical Help if required

Sanctions: Suspension Repeat Offence: Suspension
Option for expulsion following Board of Management consideration.

· Term of suspension to depend on gravity of incident and whether a first offence.
· Return to school with signed statement from parents and student that incident will not be repeated.
· Board of Management to consider option for expulsion if repeat offences occur and based on Principal’s advice.


Notify parents
Notify Gardai
Apprise Board of Management
Determine Severity of offence/need for counselling/external help

Severe warning on possibility of further suspensions leading to exclusion if offences continue.
Incident reported to Board of Management for consideration
Written guarantee of good behaviour from student/parents before return to St. Mary’s.
Expulsion by Board of Management following suspensions, on Principal’s recommendation.

d. Student Dealing in Drugs

Seek to detain Student (regard must be had to personal safety)
Seek immediate assistance
Notify Parents
Notify Gardai
Notify Board of Management
Detailed assessment of situation by School and other
appropriate authorities.

Immediate suspension
Expulsion on recommendation of Principal following investigation and Emergency Board of Management Meeting

e. Teaching or Support Staff under Alcohol or Drug influence.

Current Health and Safety Legislation is particularly relevant to personnel reporting for work under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Alcohol or Substance Use:

If the teacher or support staff member is unfit to work as a consequence of taking alcohol or drugs, the health and safety of the school cohort is at risk. The Principal, if such an incident occurs, will follow procedures in line with current Health and Safety legislation and consistent with the school’s Safety Statement.

In the context of this Policy, employees have the following legal duty under Section 13 and 14 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005:

· Ensure that they are not under the influence of an intoxicant to the extent that they may endanger themselves or others

f. Visitor to Campus under Alcohol or Substance Influence:

The school’s Health and Safety Policy also applies to this area.

Report matter to Principal/Deputy Principal
Ask party to leave school premises
Provide assistance if appropriate
Prepare and record detailed log of incident
Refer via Principal to Board of Management for action

5. Use of Alcohol on School Premises

5.1 The Board of Management have the authority and responsibility to govern the use of alcohol in areas under their control.

5.2 Social events on the Campus where alcohol is being served must have prior Board of Management approval

5.3 Social events should ideally be scheduled for the end of a working day or in the evening

5.4 Alcohol should not be provided as a prize or reward for competitive events.

5.5 Consumption of alcohol by students and U18s is prohibited. Alcohol must not be served to U18s

5.6 The consumption of alcohol and the results of such consumption must never compromise personal responsibility and accountability

6. Monitoring Review and Evaluation

6.1 Records
Careful and detailed records will be taken of all substance related incidents using appropriate forms. An incident book or register will be maintained by the Co-ordinator, Principal or Deputy Principal and completed immediately following each relevant substance related incident. A sample incident report form is appended.

The procedures adopted and the outcome (i.e sanction details) will also be recorded in this register.

6.2 Review
A periodic review of the policy by the Board of Management or a Policy Review Committee will be conducted. This formal review will take place at least once during a board’s tenure or more frequently, if deemed necessary, in the light of new legislation, the school’s experience of dealing with substance related incidents and feedback from any interested party.

6.3 Reporting
The Principal will present a brief annual report to the Board of Management, detailing the number and type of incidents recorded and outlining any recommendations for change in the policy based on the previous years experience.

Appendix I

Symmptoms and Manifestations of Substance Use

Common Symptoms of Substance Use

a. Change in Character (lying to cover up change in life style)
b. Poor physical appearance
c. Unusual outbreaks of temper
d. Excess use of money/borrowing money
e. Stealing money
f. Diminishing appetite
g. Spending excess time away from home
h. Attendance at school erratic
i. Wearing dark glasses inappropriately (concealing dilated pupils)

Some of the above symptoms can be caused by factors other than substance use, so it is important not to jump to premature conclusions.

Manifestations of Specific Substances

Glue Sniffing / Solvents

a. Odour of inhaled substance on clothing or breath
b. Glue traces on clothes hair or hands
c. Spots or blisters around nose and mouth
d. Watering of eyes and nose
e. Poor muscular control
f. Drowsiness or unconsciousness
g. Plastic bag hidden/crisp bags hidden
h. Disturbed behaviour, dizziness, headaches, illness
i. Loss of energy, sallow complexion, loss of appetite
j. Lack of judgement and awareness, tendency to doze off
k. Mood swings
l. Confused conversation
m. Assembly in small groups in isolated areas during break time
n. Symptoms similar to drunkenness, but of much shorter duration.
o. Where solvents are used with alcohol look out for very aggressive behaviour and use extreme caution
p. The possibility of COMA and DEATH if solvents are used or particularly mixed with ALCOHOL should be noted. Immediate medical intervention will be required

Barbiturate Use

a. Drowsiness, staggering, lack of interest, disorientation
b. Withdrawal symptoms follow a pattern
12/24 hours Dizziness insomnia anxiety
24/36 hours fainting, vomiting, muscle spasms/twitching
36/48 hours Epileptic fits and delirium
c. Hospital treatment is recommended where there is any doubt, overdoses can lead to coma and possible brain damage.

Amphetamine Stimulant Use

a. Pupils dilated/excess activity/irritable
b. Mouth dry, mouth ulcers, dizziness
c. Suppressed appetite/ weight loss/ insomnia

Marijuana/ Cannabis Use

a. Changes in visual perception/ impaired speech or writing
b. Distorted judgement
c. Touch, taste, smell intensified
d. Sleepy or stuperous in later stages/unable to concentrate
e. Excitable / Inane Laughter
f. Increased hunger and thirst
g. Bloodshot eyes/use of eye drops/ inappropriate wearing of sunglasses

Narcotic (Heroin Morphine etc)

a. If inhaled drug cause redness and rawness
b. Scarring if injected
c. Pupils constricted / lethargy/ drowsiness
d. Loss of appetite
e. Speech slow and slurred

Hallucinogen (LSD, STP , Mescaline)

a. Altered perceptions, distortion of time and space
b. Changes in mood, intensified depression, lessened inhibitions
c. Dilation of pupils
d. Body temperature and blood pressure altered

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