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Safe & Supportive Schools

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Violence, Trauma, and Substance Use Prevention

Safe & Supportive Learning Environments prevent violence, trauma, and substance abuse by working collaboratively with school staff, students and parents, and by coordinating efforts with related federal, state and community efforts and resources. Information about select Department of Elementary and Secondary Education programs and supports can be accessed below, as can several related outside resources.

Preventing Violence and Addressing Trauma

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) G.L. c. 71, as amended by sections 60 and 61 of Chapter 256 of the Acts of 2010, requires public schools to include in health education the topic of safe and healthy relationships with a focus on preventing sexual and domestic violence. Additionally, subject to appropriation, schools are required to implement specific policies and discipline codes that address teen dating violence in public schools. This guidance contains recommendations for developing such policies and discipline codes.

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Bullying Prevention and Intervention and Social and Emotional Learning
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Massachusetts Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)
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Behavioral Health and Public Schools (BHPS) Framework and Assessment Tool
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BHPS Task Force Final Report
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Safe and Supportive Schools Commission
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Safe and Supportive Schools Grants

Trauma Sensitive Schools provide an environment that addresses the educational and psycho-social needs of students who have experienced trauma. Trauma may be caused by circumstances including, but not limited to, family violence, community violence, war, and homelessness. The Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI) provides general information about trauma, resources and external links for helping traumatized children learn.

The Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students was founded in 1993 by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. Responding to evidence indicating increased levels of suicidality and other risk behaviors among gay and lesbian students, the Safe Schools Program provides a range of services designed to help schools implement Chapter 76, Section 5 (the Massachusetts Student Anti-Discrimination Law), the State Board of Education's Recommendations on the Support and Safety of Gay and Lesbian Students, and the Access to Equal Educational Opportunity Regulations (603 CMR 26.00). For further information on making schools safe for gay and lesbian students, please refer to the Safe Schools Program information page: Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students - Student Support, Career & Education Services.

Substance Use Prevention and Intervention

Guidance on School Policies Regarding Substance Use Prevention
An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention was signed into law on March 14, 2016, as Chapter 52 of the Acts of 2016. The following sections relate to public schools:

Mass. General Laws chapter 71, section 96 (as amended by St. 2016, c. 52, s. 15):

Section 96. Each public school shall have a policy regarding substance use prevention and the education of its students about the dangers of substance abuse. The school shall notify the parents or guardians of all students attending the school of the policy and shall post the policy on the school's website. The policy, and any standards and rules enforcing the policy, shall be prescribed by the school committee in conjunction with the superintendent or the board of trustees of a charter school.

The department of elementary and secondary education, in consultation with the department of public health, shall provide guidance and recommendations to assist schools with developing and implementing effective substance use prevention and abuse education policies and shall make such guidance and recommendations publicly available on the department's website. Guidance and recommendations may include educating parents or guardians on recognizing warning signs of substance abuse and providing available resources. Guidance and recommendations shall be reviewed and regularly updated to reflect applicable research and best practices.

Each school district and charter school shall file its substance use prevention and abuse education policies with the department of elementary and secondary education in a manner and form prescribed by the department.

The following information and resources may be useful for schools/districts when creating and updating substance use prevention policies and educating students about the dangers of substance use and abuse.

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Guidance on School Policies Regarding Substance Use Prevention

Preventing Underage Drinking - Social Host Liability Law Q & A: A social host is anyone (adult or minor) who is in control of the premises and who furnishes alcohol or allows it to be consumed on those premises. The legal drinking age in Massachusetts is 21. It is against the law to serve or provide alcohol to underage guests or to allow them to drink alcohol in your home or on other property you control. Those who do may be prosecuted criminally. The penalty is a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment for up to a year, or both. (M.G.L. c. 138, s. 34)

Department of Public Health (DPH) - Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS)
The BSAS oversees the substance abuse and gambling prevention and treatment services in the Commonwealth. Responsibilities include: licensing programs and counselors; funding and monitoring prevention and treatment services; providing access to treatment for the indigent and uninsured; developing and implementing policies and programs; and tracking substance abuse trends in the state.

Other Resources

School Resources related to Suicide Prevention

US Department of Education - National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC)
NCMEC's mission is to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation; help find missing children; and assist victims of child abduction and sexual exploitation, their families, and the professionals who serve them. The numerous resources available include a page for Parents/Guardians as well as NetSmartz,® an interactive, educational safety resource for children aged 5 to 17, parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safer on the Internet



Last Updated: October 11, 2017
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